PloS one

The niche factor syndecan-1 regulates the maintenance and proliferation of neural progenitor cells during mammalian cortical development.

PMID 22936997


Neural progenitor cells (NPCs) divide and differentiate in a precisely regulated manner over time to achieve the remarkable expansion and assembly of the layered mammalian cerebral cortex. Both intrinsic signaling pathways and environmental factors control the behavior of NPCs during cortical development. Heparan sulphate proteoglycans (HSPG) are critical environmental regulators that help modulate and integrate environmental cues and downstream intracellular signals. Syndecan-1 (Sdc1), a major transmembrane HSPG, is highly enriched in the early neural germinal zone, but its function in modulating NPC behavior and cortical development has not been explored. In this study we investigate the expression pattern and function of Sdc1 in the developing mouse cerebral cortex. We found that Sdc1 is highly expressed by cortical NPCs. Knockdown of Sdc1 in vivo by in utero electroporation reduces NPC proliferation and causes their premature differentiation, corroborated in isolated cells in vitro. We found that Sdc1 knockdown leads to reduced levels of β-catenin, indicating reduced canonical Wnt signaling. Consistent with this, GSK3β inhibition helps rescue the Sdc1 knockdown phenotype, partially restoring NPC number and proliferation. Moreover, exogenous Wnt protein promotes cortical NPC proliferation, but this is prevented by Sdc1 knockdown. Thus, Sdc1 in the germinal niche is a key HSPG regulating the maintenance and proliferation of NPCs during cortical neurogenesis, in part by modulating the ability of NPCs to respond to Wnt ligands.