- EGFL7 regulates adult neural stem cell maintenance and differentiation by inhibition of Notch1 (2010)
- In neurobiology the preexisting dogma on the unchangeability of the adult mammalian brain and its inability to give rise to new neurons has been challenged since the early nineties. Generally, it is now accepted that neurogenesis persists in adults. Progress in developmental and stem cell biology in recent years led to an increasing interest in regeneration-based treatment strategies for damaged tissue of the central nervous system. Thus, the enhancement of the endogenous potential of the brain to repair itself is potentially a feasible therapeutic strategy to treat various types of brain damage. Therefore, it is of great interest to understand the molecular mechanism that regulate adult neurogenesis. One of the prominent pathways suggested to be involved here is the Notch signaling cascade. Previously, it has been shown that various components of Notch signaling are expressed in the stem cell niche of the adult subventricular zone (SVZ) in vivo. Interestingly, a recent study demonstrated that the self-renewal potential of adult neural stem cells (NSCs) isolated from the SVZ depend on Notch signaling in vitro. Recently, we identified a novel non-canonical Notch ligand termed epidermal growth factor-like domain 7 (EGFL7), which was originally described as a protein secreted by endothelial cells and functionally implicated in cellular responses of the vascular system such as cell migration and blood vessel formation. We were able to show that secreted EGFL7 binds to a region in Notch that is involved in ligand-mediated receptor activation, thus acting as an antagonist of Notch signaling. The present study identifies neurons of the human and murine brain as a novel source of EGFL7, which suggests functions of EGFL7 in the neural system. Expression analyses by quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) revealed EGFL7 is down regulated in the adult SVZ, which suggests that endogenous EGFL7 may act as a Notch modulator of NSCs. We assessed the expression of Notch pathway components in adult NSCs isolated from the SVZ of adult mice and demonstrated that inhibition of Notch activity by the γ-secretase inhibitor DAPT reduced the self-renewal potential of NSCs. Accordingly, adenoviral-mediated expression of EGFL7 in vitro decreased Notch-specific signaling and reduced proliferation and self-renewal of NSCs. Conversely, activation of Notch by a constitutive active form of Notch (NICD) rescued the EGFL7-mediated reduction of NSC self-renewal verifying that this effect was directly linked to Notch signaling. Congruent to the reduced proliferation rate measured in vitro, induced expression of EGFL7 in vivo significantly reduced the number of Ki-67 positive cells within the SVZ upon cerebroventricular injection of EGFL7 adenovirus. Expression analyses in the developing brain showed single EGFL7-positive cells within the marginal zone of the neocortex as measured by in situ hybridization. These cells might be Cajal-Retzius cells, specialized neurons, which specifically express Reelin, which is a protein of the extracellular matrix known to control neuronal migration and differentiation. Interstingly, we could show that Reelin and EGFL7 are expressed in a subtype of neurons of the adult mouse cortex. This implied an interaction of both proteins and was verified by co-immunoprecipitation assays, suggesting an additional role for EGFL7 in neuronal maintenance. QRT-PCR based expression analyses in vitro comparing differentiated and non-differentiated NSCs displayed an increase in EGFL7 expression during the differentiation process, which was paralled by reduced Notch signaling. NSCs differentiated on coverslips coated with EGFL7 differentiated into all three cell types - neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. EGFL7 favored the formation of neurons as compared to control comparable to the effect of the Notch-inhibitor DAPT. Furthermore, additional oligodendrocytes were formed. These cells displayed a mature morphology with distinct sprouts and branches in contrast to the small and round oligodendrocytes that formed on control coverslips, which resembled us of precursor cells. Neurons and oligodendrocytes were formed at the expense of astrocytes. Congruently to the effect observed in vitro, adenoviral-based expression of EGFL7 in the SVZ yielded a slight induction of neuronal differentiation in vivo. Taken together, these results show for the first time a previously unrecognized role for EGFL7 in the brain by modulation of the Notch pathway in adult NSCs, which changes the proliferation and differentiation potential of adult NSCs in vitro and in vivo.