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In vivo reprogramming of astrocytes to neuroblasts in the adult brain

Abstract

Adult differentiated cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells or lineage-restricted proliferating precursors in culture; however, this has not been demonstrated in vivo. Here, we show that the single transcription factor SOX2 is sufficient to reprogram resident astrocytes into proliferative neuroblasts in the adult mouse brain. These induced adult neuroblasts (iANBs) persist for months and can be generated even in aged brains. When supplied with BDNF and noggin or when the mice are treated with a histone deacetylase inhibitor, iANBs develop into electrophysiologically mature neurons, which functionally integrate into the local neural network. Our results demonstrate that adult astrocytes exhibit remarkable plasticity in vivo, a feature that might have important implications in regeneration of the central nervous system using endogenous patient-specific glial cells.

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Figure 1: Inducing de novo neurogenesis in adult mouse brains.
Figure 2: Progressive generation of iANBs.
Figure 3: iANBs are locally produced within the adult mouse striatum.
Figure 4: iANBs originate from cells traced by hGFAP–Cre or mGfap–Cre line 77.6.
Figure 5: iANBs originate from astrocytes.
Figure 6: Neither NG2-glia nor neurons contribute to iANBs.
Figure 7: iANBs pass through a proliferative state.
Figure 8: iANBs develop into functionally mature neurons.

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Acknowledgements

We thank members of the Zhang laboratory for discussions and reagents. We also thank J. Bibb (UT Southwestern, USA) and P. Chambon (I.G.B.M.C., France) for providing PrP–CreERT mice, J. Hsieh (UT Southwestern, USA), C. Kuo (Duke University, USA) and Y. Jan (UCSF, USA) for NesCreERTM mice, M. Klymkowsky (UC Boulder, USA) for SOX3 antibody, K. Huber for sharing equipment, and E. Olson for critical reading of the manuscript. C-L.Z. is a W. W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research. This work was supported by The American Heart Association (09SDG2260602), The Whitehall Foundation Award (2009-12-05), The Welch Foundation Award (I-1724), The Ellison Medical Foundation Award (AG-NS-0753-11), and NIH Grants (1DP2OD006484 and R01NS070981; to C-L.Z.).

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Contributions

W.N., T.Z. and C-L.Z. conceived and designed the experiments. W.N., T.Z., Y.Z. and C-L.Z. performed experiments. S.F. contributed to partial surgical experiments. D.K.S. critically reviewed and edited the manuscript. R.B. developed the Cst3–CreERT2 transgenic mice. W.N., T.Z. and C-L.Z. analysed data and prepared the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chun-Li Zhang.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Integrated supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1 The hGFAP promoter in lentivirus drives gene expression predominantly in astrocytes.

(a-d) Immunohistological analyses of GFP-expressing cells in striatal regions injected with hGFAP-GFP lentivirus. Arrows indicate co-labeled cells with the indicated markers. Scale: 20 μm. (e) Quantification of marker expression in GFP+ cells. Data are presented as mean+s.d. Mean is shown for n = 3 animals, scoring for each animal 250 or more GFP+ cells from 3-6 brain sections for each marker. n.d., not detected.

Supplementary Figure 2 Continually high expression of ectopic SOX2 prohibits robust induction of iANBs.

(a) Experimental design. Adult mice were injected with the indicated lentivirus. Gene expression was mediated by an hGFAP promoter or a constitutively active CAG promoter. Mice were analyzed 5 weeks later. (b) SOX2 expression in lentivirus-injected mouse brains. (c-d) DCX+ cells with extended neuronal processes are robustly detected in regions injected with hGFAP-SOX2 but not CAG-SOX2 lentivirus. Data are presented as mean+s.d., n = 4 animals per group. (e) SOX2 expression in DCX+ cells at the indicated weeks of post injection (wpi). The expression of SOX2 in DCX+ cells is greatly reduced at later stages in mice injected with virus expressing hGFAP-SOX2 but not CAG-SOX2. DCX+ cells are rarely observed from 1-3 wpi. Scales: 20 μm.

Supplementary Figure 3 Whole cell patch clamp parameters of traced cells in the striatum of Cst3-CreERT2;Rosa-tdT mice.

With the exception of one recorded cell has electrophysiological properties similar to microglia (indicated by an arrow), the remaining cells resemble astrocytes. V0, resting membrane potential; Rin, input resistance.

Supplementary Figure 4 Proliferating cells in the adult striatum pre- and post-lesions.

(a) Experimental design. Proliferating cells were labeled by BrdU administered with three intraperitoneal injections over a 6 h period before sacrifice. Striatal lesions were stereotactically introduced by a 30-gauge needle. hpl, hr post lesion; dpl, days post lesion. (b) Quantification of BrdU+ cells within the striatum. Very few proliferating cells were detected in the adult striatum before 3 dpl. Data are presented as mean+s.d., n = 4 lesion sites at each time point. (c) Distribution of proliferating cells among the examined cell types at 3 and 7 dpl. (d-e) Representative images showing labeled cells. Scales: 20 μm (d) and 50 μm (e)

Supplementary Figure 5 iANBs rarely generate mature neurons under normal conditions.

(a) Experimental design to examine newly generated mature neurons induced by SOX2. BrdU was administered in drinking water continuously for 4 weeks. (b-c) Quantification of BrdU-labeled DCX+ (b) or NeuN+ (c) cells in infected striatal regions. Data are presented as mean+s.d., n = 3 animals per group. (d) Immunofluorescence analysis showing a single BrdU+NeuN+ cell. Scale: 20 μm.

Supplementary Figure 6 Confocal images (a and e) and electrophysiological properties (b-d and f-h) of additional recorded tdT+ cells (indicated by arrows), which were loaded with biocytin (Bio) during recording.

Enlarged views of the boxed regions show detailed dendritic morphology of the recorded cells. (b-d) Electrophysiology of an aspiny tdT+ cells labeled in panel (a). (f-h) Electrophysiology of an aspiny tdT+ cells labeled in panel (e). These two cells fired repetitive action potentials in response to current step (b, f), exhibited inward currents in response to voltage step (c, g), and showed depolarizing spontaneous synaptic currents at resting membrane potential (d, h). Scales: 20 μm.

Supplementary Figure 7 Electrophysiological properties of SOX2-induced neurons.

Action potentials (left panels), inward currents upon depolarization (middle panels), and spontaneous synaptic currents (right panels) are shown for all 18 reprogrammed cells, which were traced in Cst3-CreERT2;Rosa-tdT mice. The three action potential traces shown were elicited by subthreshold current injection (bottom), just-suprathreshold depolarizing current injection (middle), and a more depolarizing current injection to generate the most frequent firing (top). The corresponding current injected was labeled besides the trace.

Supplementary Figure 8 Whole cell patch clamp parameters of SOX2-induced neurons with multiple action potentials.

V0, resting membrane potential; Rin, input resistance; C, capacitance; AP freq, frequency of action potentials.

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Niu, W., Zang, T., Zou, Y. et al. In vivo reprogramming of astrocytes to neuroblasts in the adult brain. Nat Cell Biol 15, 1164–1175 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncb2843

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