The finding of neurogenesis in the adult brain led to the discovery of adult neural stem cells. TLX was initially identified as an orphan nuclear receptor expressed in vertebrate forebrains and is highly expressed in the adult brain. The brains of TLX-null mice have been reported to have no obvious defects during embryogenesis; however, mature mice suffer from retinopathies, severe limbic defects, aggressiveness, reduced copulation and progressively violent behaviour. Here we show that TLX maintains adult neural stem cells in an undifferentiated, proliferative state. We show that TLX-expressing cells isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) from adult brains can proliferate, self-renew and differentiate into all neural cell types in vitro. By contrast, TLX-null cells isolated from adult mutant brains fail to proliferate. Reintroducing TLX into FACS-sorted TLX-null cells rescues their ability to proliferate and to self-renew. In vivo, TLX mutant mice show a loss of cell proliferation and reduced labelling of nestin in neurogenic areas in the adult brain. TLX can silence glia-specific expression of the astrocyte marker GFAP in neural stem cells, suggesting that transcriptional repression may be crucial in maintaining the undifferentiated state of these cells.
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