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The vasculature as a neural stem cell niche

Leo Otsuki, Andrea H Brand
Neurobiology of Disease 2017, 107: 4-14
28132930
Neural stem cells (NSCs) are multipotent, self-renewing progenitors that generate progeny that differentiate into neurons and glia. NSCs in the adult mammalian brain are generally quiescent. Environmental stimuli such as learning or exercise can activate quiescent NSCs, inducing them to proliferate and produce new neurons and glia. How are these behaviours coordinated? The neurovasculature, the circulatory system of the brain, is a key component of the NSC microenvironment, or 'niche'. Instructive signals from the neurovasculature direct NSC quiescence, proliferation, self-renewal and differentiation. During ageing, a breakdown in the niche accompanies NSC dysfunction and cognitive decline. There is much interest in reversing these changes and enhancing NSC activity by targeting the neurovasculature therapeutically. Here we discuss principles of neurovasculature-NSC crosstalk, and the implications for the design of NSC-based therapies. We also consider the emerging contributions to this field of the model organism Drosophila melanogaster.

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