Astrocytes are the most common glial type in the central nervous system. They play pivotal roles in neurophysiological and neuropathological processes. Mounting evidence indicates that astrocytes may act as neural stem cells and contribute to adult neurogenesis. In previous reports, freshly isolated O-2A progenitors were shown to revert to neural stem-like cells (NSLCs) when cultured with a serum-containing glial medium or bone morphogenic proteins for 3 days and with basic fibroblast growth factor consecutively. NSLCs possess self-renewal and multipotential capacities that can give rise to neurons and glial cells, which suggests that they have stem cell-like properties. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms and cell fate commitment when exposed to a neural conditioned medium remain obscure. In this study, we demonstrated that NSLCs grown in the serum-containing neurobasal medium can differentiate into induced neural-like cells (iNLCs). It was noteworthy that astroglia mixed in these cells, particularly in iNLCs, were gradually replaced by neural phenotypes during this glia-neuron conversion. Remarkably, these glial cells can maintain high levels of proliferation and self-renewal ability by activating the NF-κB and MAPK signals. Finally, we found that Notch, STAT3, autophagy, bHLH, and Wnt signals appear to be critical modulators of these intricate events. Altogether, these data demonstrate that O-2A lineage astroglia can function as neural stem cells and display neurogenic plasticity. Dissecting the regulatory pathways involved in these processes is essential to the understanding of glial cell fate and its precise functions. This finding may foster a better understanding of astrocytic heterogeneity and lead to innovative ways to readily apply stem-like astroglia cells as candidate cell sources for neural repair.

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