Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nestin-positive mesenchymal stem cells favour the astroglial lineage in neural progenitors and stem cells by releasing active BMP4

Sabine Wislet-Gendebien1*, Françoise Bruyère1, Grégory Hans12, Pierre Leprince1, Gustave Moonen12 and Bernard Rogister12

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

2 Department of Neurology, C.H.U. of Liège, Sart Tilman, Belgium

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BMC Neuroscience 2004, 5:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-5-33

Published: 15 September 2004



Spontaneous repair is limited after CNS injury or degeneration because neurogenesis and axonal regrowth rarely occur in the adult brain. As a result, cell transplantation has raised much interest as potential treatment for patients with CNS lesions. Several types of cells have been considered as candidates for such cell transplantation and replacement therapies. Foetal brain tissue has already been shown to have significant effects in patients with Parkinson's disease. Clinical use of the foetal brain tissue is, however, limited by ethical and technical problems as it requires high numbers of grafted foetal cells and immunosuppression. Alternatively, several reports suggested that mesenchymal stem cells, isolated from adult bone marrow, are multipotent cells and could be used in autograft approach for replacement therapies.


In this study, we addressed the question of the possible influence of mesenchymal stem cells on neural stem cell fate. We have previously reported that adult rat mesenchymal stem cells are able to express nestin in defined culture conditions (in the absence of serum and after 25 cell population doublings) and we report here that nestin-positive (but not nestin-negative) mesenchymal stem cells are able to favour the astroglial lineage in neural progenitors and stem cells cultivated from embryonic striatum. The increase of the number of GFAP-positive cells is associated with a significant decrease of the number of Tuj1- and O4-positive cells. Using quantitative RT-PCR, we demonstrate that mesenchymal stem cells express LIF, CNTF, BMP2 and BMP4 mRNAs, four cytokines known to play a role in astroglial fate decision. In this model, BMP4 is responsible for the astroglial stimulation and oligodendroglial inhibition, as 1) this cytokine is present in a biologically-active form only in nestin-positive mesenchymal stem cells conditioned medium and 2) anti-BMP4 antibodies inhibit the nestin-positive mesenchymal stem cells conditioned medium inducing effect on astrogliogenesis.


When thinking carefully about mesenchymal stem cells as candidates for cellular therapy in neurological diseases, their effects on resident neural cell fate have to be considered.