Plasticity is a critical factor enabling stem cells to contribute to the development and regeneration of tissues. In the mammalian central nervous system (CNS), neural stem cells (NSCs) that are defined by their capability for self-renewal and differentiation into neurons and glia, are present in the ventricular neuroaxis throughout life. However, the differentiation potential of NSCs changes in a spatiotemporally regulated manner and these cells progressively lose plasticity during development. One of the major alterations in this process is the switch from neurogenesis to gliogenesis. NSCs initiate neurogenesis immediately after neural tube closure and then turn to gliogenesis from midgestation, which requires an irreversible competence transition that enforces a progressive reduction of neuropotency. A growing body of evidence indicates that the neurogenesis-to-gliogenesis transition is governed by multiple layers of regulatory networks consisting of multiple factors, including epigenetic regulators, transcription factors, and noncoding RNA (ncRNA). In this review, we focus on critical roles of microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small ncRNA that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level, in the regulation of the switch from neurogenesis to gliogenesis in NSCs in the developing CNS. Unraveling the regulatory interactions of miRNAs and target genes will provide insights into the regulation of plasticity of NSCs, and the development of new strategies for the regeneration of damaged CNS.
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