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      Phenotypic and gene expression modification with normal brain aging in GFAP-positive astrocytes and neural stem cells.

      Aging Cell
      Adult, Aging, Animals, Astrocytes, cytology, metabolism, Cell Proliferation, Fibroblast Growth Factor 2, genetics, Gene Expression Regulation, Genetic Variation, Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein, Hippocampus, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Intermediate Filaments, Neural Stem Cells, Neurons, Rats, Rats, Inbred F344, Signal Transduction, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2

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          Astrocytes secrete growth factors that are both neuroprotective and supportive for the local environment. Identified by glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression, astrocytes exhibit heterogeneity in morphology and in the expression of phenotypic markers and growth factors throughout different adult brain regions. In adult neurogenic niches, astrocytes secrete vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) within the neurogenic niche and are also a source of special GFAP-positive multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs). Normal aging is accompanied by a decline in CNS function and reduced neurogenesis. We asked whether a decreased availability of astrocyte-derived factors may contribute to the age-related decline in neurogenesis. Determining alterations of astrocytic activity in the aging brain is crucial for understanding CNS homeostasis in aging and for assessing appropriate therapeutic targets for an aging population. We found region-specific alterations in the gene expression of GFAP, VEGF, and FGF-2 and their receptors in the aged brain corresponding to changes in astrocytic reactivity, supporting astrocytic heterogeneity and demonstrating a differential aging effect. We found that GFAP-positive NSCs uniquely coexpress both VEGF and its key mitotic receptor Flk-1 in both young and aged hippocampus, indicating a possible autocrine/paracrine signaling mechanism. VEGF expression is lost once NSCs commit to a neuronal fate, but Flk-1-mediated sensitivity to VEGF signaling is maintained. We propose that age-related astrocytic changes result in reduced VEGF and FGF-2 signaling, which in turn limits NSC and progenitor cell maintenance and contributes to decreased neurogenesis. © 2011 The Authors. Aging Cell © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

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