In vivo intermittent hypoxia elicits enhanced expansion and neuronal differentiation in cultured neural progenitors

Heather H. Ross*, Milap S. Sandhu, Tina F. Cheung, Garrett M. Fitzpatrick, Warren J. Sher, Alexander J. Tiemeier, Eric D. Laywell, David D. Fuller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


In vitro exposure of neural progenitor cell (NPC) populations to reduced O 2 (e.g. 3% versus 20%) can increase their proliferation, survival and neuronal differentiation. Our objective was to determine if an acute (<1hr), in vivo exposure to intermittent hypoxia (AIH) alters expansion and/or differentiation of subsequent in vitro cultures of NPC from the subventricular zone (SVZ). Neonatal C57BL/6 mice (postnatal day 4) were exposed to an AIH paradigm (20×1 minute; alternating 21% and 10% O 2). Immediately after AIH, SVZ tissue was isolated and NPC populations were cultured and assayed either as neurospheres (NS) or as adherent monolayer cells (MASC). AIH markedly increased the capacity for expansion of cultured NS and MASC, and this was accompanied by increases in a proliferation maker (Ki67), MTT activity and hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) signaling in NS cultures. Peptide blockade experiments confirmed that proteins downstream of HIF-1α are important for both proliferation and morphological changes associated with terminal differentiation in NS cultures. Finally, immunocytochemistry and Western blotting experiments demonstrated that AIH increased expression of the neuronal fate determination transcription factor Pax6 in SVZ tissue, and this was associated with increased neuronal differentiation in cultured NS and MASC. We conclude that in vivo AIH exposure can enhance the viability of subsequent in vitro SVZ-derived NPC cultures. AIH protocols may therefore provide a means to "prime" NPC prior to transplantation into the injured central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-245
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Differentiation
  • HIF-1α
  • Intermittent hypoxia
  • Ki67
  • Neural stem cell
  • Neurosphere
  • Pax6
  • Population expansion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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