Research reveals development of the glial cell

April 11, 2012

A vast majority of cells in the brain are glial, yet our understanding of how they are generated, a process called gliogenesis, has remained enigmatic. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have identified a novel transcripitonal cascade that controls these formative stages of gliogenesis and answered the longstanding question of how glial cells are generated from neural stem cells.

The findings appear in the current edition of Neuron.

"Most people are familiar with neurons, cells that process and transmit information in the brain. , on the other hand, make-up about 80 percent of the cells in the brain and function by providing trophic support to neruons, participating in neurotransmission, for , and comprise the ," said Dr. Benjamin Deneen, assistant professor of neuroscience at BCM. "Importantly, glia have been linked to numerous CNS pathologies, from brain tumors and spinal cord injury and several neurological disorders including, Retts Syndrome, ALS, and Multiple Sclerosis. Therefore deciphering how glial cells are generated is key to understanding during health and disease."

As researchers began investigating glial development in chicks they started by going backwards – examing what steps were needed before the glial cells matured. They discovered that are specified in when the transcription factor NFIA is induced.

Taking another step back in the transcriptional cascade, they looked for what triggered NFIA induction.

"By comparing mouse and chick regulatory sequences we were able to perform enhancer screening in the chick to identify regulatory elements with activity that resembled NFIA induction. This method allowed us to pinpoint Sox9," said Peng Kang, postdoctoral associate in the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at BCM. "Subsequently, we found that Sox9 doesn't just induce NFIA expression, it also associates with NFIA, forming a complex."

Just after the initiation of gliogenesis this complex was discovered to co-regulate a subset of genes that play important roles in mitochondria energy metabolism and glial precursor migration.

"Sox9 induces NFIA expression during glial initiation and then binds NFIA to drive lineage progression by cooperatively regulating a genetic program that controls cell migration and energy metabolism, two key processes associated with cellular differentiation," said Deneen. "We now need to ask what other proteins contribute to this process, and how does the nature of this complex evolve during astro-glial lineage progression."

Additionally, these findings may also help researchers to understand how certain brain tumors might begin to form, as these same developmental processes and proteins are found in both adult and pediatric . A more comprehensive understanding how this regulatory cascade operates during development, could eventually lead to better treatment targets for .

Explore further: OHSU discovery may someday lead to prevention and treatment of sudden infant death syndrome

Related Stories

OHSU discovery may someday lead to prevention and treatment of sudden infant death syndrome

February 16, 2012
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have discovered that brain cells commonly thought to play a supporting role actually are critically important for the growth of brainstem neurons responsible for cardiorespiratory ...

Recommended for you

Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds

July 25, 2017
Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new study from University of Illinois ...

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Lutein may counter cognitive aging, study finds

July 25, 2017
Spinach and kale are favorites of those looking to stay physically fit, but they also could keep consumers cognitively fit, according to a new study from University of Illinois researchers.

Zebrafish study reveals clues to healing spinal cord injuries

July 25, 2017
Fresh insights into how zebrafish repair their nerve connections could hold clues to new therapies for people with spinal cord injuries.

Brain stimulation may improve cognitive performance in people with schizophrenia

July 24, 2017
Brain stimulation could be used to treat cognitive deficits frequently associated with schizophrenia, according to a new study from King's College London.

New map may lead to drug development for complex brain disorders, researcher says

July 24, 2017
Just as parents are not the root of all their children's problems, a single gene mutation can't be blamed for complex brain disorders like autism, according to a Keck School of Medicine of USC neuroscientist.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.