Open Access Research article

Boundary cap neural crest stem cells homotopically implanted to the injured dorsal root transitional zone give rise to different types of neurons and glia in adult rodents

Carl Trolle, Niclas Konig, Ninnie Abrahamsson, Svitlana Vasylovska and Elena N Kozlova*

Author Affiliations

Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University Biomedical Center, Box 593, SE-751 24 Uppsala, Sweden

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-60

Published: 5 May 2014



The boundary cap is a transient group of neural crest-derived cells located at the presumptive dorsal root transitional zone (DRTZ) when sensory axons enter the spinal cord during development. Later, these cells migrate to dorsal root ganglia and differentiate into subtypes of sensory neurons and glia. After birth when the DRTZ is established, sensory axons are no longer able to enter the spinal cord. Here we explored the fate of mouse boundary cap neural crest stem cells (bNCSCs) implanted to the injured DRTZ after dorsal root avulsion for their potential to assist sensory axon regeneration.


Grafted cells showed extensive survival and differentiation after transplantation to the avulsed DRTZ. Transplanted cells located outside the spinal cord organized elongated tubes of Sox2/GFAP expressing cells closely associated with regenerating sensory axons or appeared as small clusters on the surface of the spinal cord. Other cells, migrating into the host spinal cord as single cells, differentiated to spinal cord neurons with different neurotransmitter characteristics, extensive fiber organization, and in some cases surrounded by glutamatergic terminal-like profiles.


These findings demonstrate that bNCSCs implanted at the site of dorsal root avulsion injury display remarkable differentiation plasticity inside the spinal cord and in the peripheral compartment where they organize tubes associated with regenerating sensory fibers. These properties offer a basis for exploring the ability of bNCSCs to assist regeneration of sensory axons into the spinal cord and replace lost neurons in the injured spinal cord.

Neural stem cell; Sensory neuron; Spinal cord injury; Cell differentiation; Nerve regeneration; Cell replacement