Lineage specification of neuronal precursors in the mouse spinal cord

L. J. Richards, M. Murphy, R. Dutton, T. J. Kilpatrick, A. C. Puche, B. Key, S. S. Tan, P. S. Talman, P. F. Bartlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We have investigated the differentiation potential of precursor cells within the developing spinal cord of mice and have shown that spinal cord cells from embryonic day 10 specifically give rise to neurons when plated onto an astrocytic monolayer, Ast-1. These neurons had the morphology of motor neurons and >83% expressed the motor neuron markers choline acetyltransferase, peripherin, calcitonin gene-related peptide, and L-14. By comparison, <10% of the neurons arising on monolayers of other neural cell lines or 3T3 fibroblasts had motor neuron characteristics. Cells derived from dorsal, intermediate, and ventral regions of the spinal cord all behaved similarly and gave rise to motor neuron-like cells when plated onto Ast-1. By using cells that expressed the lacZ reporter gene, it was shown that >93% of cells present on the Ast-1 monolayers were motor neuron-like. Time-lapse analysis revealed that the precursors on the Ast-1 monolayers gave rise to neurons either directly or following a single cell division. Together, these results indicate that precursors in the murine spinal cord can be induced to differentiate into the motor neuron phenotype by factors produced by Ast-1 cells, suggesting that a similar factor(s) produced by cells akin to Ast-1 may regulate motor neuron differentiation in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10079-10083
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - Oct 24 1995


  • astrocytes
  • cell plasticity
  • lineage determination
  • neural progenitors
  • neuronal differentiation


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