Taking the developing cerebellum as an example, neuron progenitors, cells that are capable of dividing a limited number of times and differentiating into different cell types, will first differentiate into Purkinje cells. As development proceeds, progenitors lose their potency gradually and switch to generate interneurons.
Professor Kwan and his team revealed that the gradual restriction of progenitor potency is driven by the temporal decline of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signalling strength, as reflected by the lacking of two essential mediators named Smad1 and Smad5, and an increase number of interneurons generated. The team then injected recombinant BMP signalling molecules containing the two mediators into the cerebrospinal fluid of mouse embryos, giving rise to a sharp increase of the BMP signalling strength in the progenitor pool of the developing cerebellum.
The discovering of extrinsic signalling factors modulating the fate transition of neural progenitors sheds light on the regeneration of neuronal cells and contributes to the development of therapeutic interventions against neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. The research findings have been published in the renowned international scientific journal Cell Reports.
Further reading:Ma, T. C., Vong, K. I., & Kwan, K. M. (2020). Spatiotemporal Decline of BMP Signaling Activity in Neural Progenitors Mediates Fate Transition and Safeguards Neurogenesis. Cell Reports, 30(11), 3616-3624. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2020.02.089