The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 34: 351 - 364 (1990)

Vol 34, Issue 3

Astroglial differentiation from neuroepithelial precursor cells of amphibian embryos: an in vivo and in vitro analysis

Published: 1 September 1990

C Soula, Y Sagot, P Cochard and A M Duprat

Centre de Biologie du Développement, URA CNRS 675 affiliée à l'INSERM, Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France.


Initial development of astroglial phenotype has been studied in vitro in an amphibian embryo (Pleurodeles waltI), to document the differentiation potentialities acquired by neural precursor cells isolated at the early neurula stage. In particular, we sought to determine whether interactions between neuroepithelial cells and the inducing tissue, the chordamesoderm, are required beyond this stage to specify precursor cells along glial lineages. Glial cell differentiation was documented by examining the appearance of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAp), a specific marker of astroglial lineages. Cells expressing GFAp-immunoreactivity differentiated rapidly, after 48 hours of culture, from cultivated neural plate cells, irrespective of the presence or absence of the inducing tissue. The widespread expression of Pleurodeles GFAp protein in neural plate cultures, in which CNS precursor cells develop alone in a simple saline medium, showed that prolonged contact with chordamesodermal cells was not necessary for the emergence of the astroglial phenotype. In addition, the initial development of astroglial phenotype has been defined in vivo. The first detectable GFAp-immunoreactivity was visualized in the neural tube of stage-24 embryos, a stage corresponding to 2-3 days in culture, defining radial glial cell end-feet. Thus, dissociation and culture of neural precursor cells did not appear to modify the onset of astroglial differentiation. At stage 32, GFAp-immunoreactivity was observed over the entire length of radial glial fibers and was also evidenced in mitotic cells located in the ventricular zone, suggesting that radial glial cells were not all post-mitotic.

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