REST is a master repressor of neuronal genes; however, whether it has any role during nervous system development remains largely unknown. Here, we analyzed systematically the role of REST in embryonic stem cells and multipotent neural stem/progenitor (NS/P) cells, including neurogenic and gliogenic NS/P cells derived from embryonic stem (ES) cells or developing mouse embryos. We showed that REST-null ES cells remained pluripotent and generated teratomas consisting of the three germ layers. By contrast, multipotent NS/P cells lacking REST displayed significantly reduced self-renewal capacity owing to reduced cell cycle kinetics and precocious neuronal differentiation. Importantly, although early-born neurogenic NS/P cells that lack REST were capable of differentiating to neurons and glia, the neuronal and oligodendrocytic pools were significantly enlarged and the astrocytic pool was shrunken. However, gliogenic NS/P cells lacking REST were able to generate a normal astrocytic pool size, suggesting that the shrinkage of the astrocytic pool generated from neurogenic NS/P cells lacking REST probably occurs by default. Microarray profiling of early-born NS/P cells lacking REST showed upregulation of neuronal as well as oligodendrocytic genes, specifically those involved in myelination. Furthermore, chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses showed that some of the upregulated oligodendrocytic genes contain an RE1 motif and are direct REST targets. Together, our data support a central role for REST during neural development in promoting NS/P cell self-renewal while restricting the generation and maturation of neurons and oligodendrocytes.
- Accepted May 18, 2012.