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    NG2-expressing neural progenitors can produce neurons in the central nervous system, providing a potential cell resource of therapy for neurological disorders. However, the mechanism underlying neuronal differentiation of NG2 cells remains largely unknown. In this report, we found that a thrombospondin (TSP) family member, TSP4, is involved in the neuronal differentiation of NG2 cells. When TSP4 was overexpressed, NG2 cells underwent spontaneous neuronal differentiation, as demonstrated by the induction of various neuronal differentiation markers such as NeuN, Tuj1, and NF200, at the messenger RNA and protein levels. In contrast, TSP4 silencing had an opposite effect on the expression of neuronal differentiation markers in NG2 cells. Next, the signaling pathway responsible for TSP4-mediated NG2 cell differentiation was investigated. We found that ERK but not p38 and AKT signaling was affected by TSP4 overexpression. Furthermore, when ERK signaling was blocked by the inhibitor U0126, the neuronal marker expression of NG2 cells was substantially increased. Together, these findings suggested that TSP4 promoted neuronal differentiation of NG2 cells by inhibiting ERK/MAPK signaling, revealing a novel role of TSP4 in cell fate specification of NG2 cells.


    Hai Jie Yang, Shuang Ping Ma, Fei Ju, Ya Ping Zhang, Zhi Chao Li, Bin Bin Zhang, Jun Jiang Lian, Lei Wang, Bin Feng Cheng, Mian Wang, Zhi Wei Feng. Thrombospondin-4 Promotes Neuronal Differentiation of NG2 Cells via the ERK/MAPK Pathway. Journal of molecular neuroscience : MN. 2016 Dec;60(4):517-524

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    PMID: 27647309

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