In vertebrates, Notch signaling is generally thought to inhibit neural differentiation. However, whether Notch can also promote specific early cell fates in this context is unknown. We introduced activated Notch1 (NIC) into the mouse forebrain, before the onset of neurogenesis, using a retroviral vector and ultrasound imaging. During embryogenesis, NIC-infected cells became, radial glia, the first specialized cell type evident in the forebrain. Thus, rather than simply inhibiting differentiation, Notch1 signaling promoted the acquisition of an early cellular phenotype. Postnatally, many NIC-infected cells became periventricular astrocytes, cells previously shown to be neural stem cells in the adult. These results suggest that Notch1 promotes radial glial identity during embryogenesis, and that radial glia may be lineally related to stem cells in the adult nervous system.
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