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Erythropoietin and the effect of oxygen during proliferation and differentiation of human neural progenitor cells

Anne-Katrin Giese1, Jana Frahm1, Rayk Hübner1, Jiankai Luo1, Andreas Wree2, Moritz J Frech1*, Arndt Rolfs1 and Stefanie Ortinau1

Author Affiliations

1 Albrecht-Kossel-Institute for Neuroregeneration (AKos), Centre for Mental Health Disease, University of Rostock, Gehlsheimer Strasse 20, 18147 Rostock, Germany

2 Institute of Anatomy, University of Rostock, Gertrudenstrasse 9, 18055 Rostock, Germany

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BMC Cell Biology 2010, 11:94  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-11-94

Published: 2 December 2010



Hypoxia plays a critical role in various cellular mechanisms, including proliferation and differentiation of neural stem and progenitor cells. In the present study, we explored the impact of lowered oxygen on the differentiation potential of human neural progenitor cells, and the role of erythropoietin in the differentiation process.


In this study we demonstrate that differentiation of human fetal neural progenitor cells under hypoxic conditions results in an increased neurogenesis. In addition, expansion and proliferation under lowered oxygen conditions also increased neuronal differentiation, although proliferation rates were not altered compared to normoxic conditions. Erythropoietin partially mimicked these hypoxic effects, as shown by an increase of the metabolic activity during differentiation and protection of differentiated cells from apoptosis.


These results provide evidence that hypoxia promotes the differentiation of human fetal neural progenitor cells, and identifies the involvement of erythropoietin during differentiation as well as different cellular mechanisms underlying the induction of differentiation mediated by lowered oxygen levels.