In a previous study, we showed that murine dendritic cells (DCs) can increase the number of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) in vitro and in vivo. In the present study, we identified macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) as a novel factor that can support the proliferation and/or survival of NSPCs in vitro. MIF is secreted by DCs and NSPCs, and its function in the normal brain remains largely unknown. It was previously shown that in macrophages, MIF binds to a CD74-CD44 complex. In the present study, we observed the expression of MIF receptors in mouse ganglionic-eminence-derived neurospheres using flow cytometry in vitro. We also found CD74 expression in the ganglionic eminence of E14 mouse brains, suggesting that MIF plays a physiological role in vivo. MIF increased the number of primary and secondary neurospheres. By contrast, retrovirally expressed MIF shRNA and MIF inhibitor (ISO-1) suppressed primary and secondary neurosphere formation, as well as cell proliferation. In the neurospheres, MIF knockdown by shRNA increased caspase 3/7 activity, and MIF increased the phosphorylation of Akt, Erk, AMPK and Stat3 (Ser727), as well as expression of Hes3 and Egfr, the products of which are known to support cell survival, proliferation and/or maintenance of NSPCs. MIF also acted as a chemoattractant for NSPCs. These results show that MIF can induce NSPC proliferation and maintenance by multiple signaling pathways acting synergistically, and it may be a potential therapeutic factor, capable of activating NSPC, for the treatment of degenerative brain disorders.
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