Chapouton, P., Adolf, B., Leucht, C., Tannhauser, B., Ryu, S., Driever, W., Bally-Cuif, L. (2006) her5 expression reveals a pool of neural stem cells in the adult zebrafish midbrain. Development (Cambridge, England). 133(21):4293-4303.
Current models of vertebrate adult neural stem cells are largely restricted to the rodent forebrain. To extract the general mechanisms of neural stem cell biology, we sought to identify new adult stem cell populations, in other model systems and/or brain areas. The teleost zebrafish appears to be an ideal system, as cell proliferation in the adult zebrafish brain is found in many more niches than in the mammalian brain. As a starting point towards identifying stem cell populations in this system, we used an embryonic neural stem cell marker, the E(spl) bHLH transcription factor Her5. We demonstrate that her5 expression is not restricted to embryonic neural progenitors, but also defines in the adult zebrafish brain a new proliferation zone at the junction between the mid- and hindbrain. We show that adult her5-expressing cells proliferate slowly, self-renew and express neural stem cell markers. Finally, using in vivo lineage tracing in her5:gfp transgenic animals, we demonstrate that the her5-positive population is multipotent, giving rise in situ to differentiated neurons and glia that populate the basal midbrain. Our findings conclusively identify a new population of adult neural stem cells, as well as their fate and their endogenous environment, in the intact vertebrate brain. This cell population, located outside the forebrain, provides a powerful model to assess the general mechanisms of vertebrate neural stem cell biology. In addition, the first transcription factor characteristic of this cell population, Her5, points to the E(Spl) as a promising family of candidate adult neural stem cell regulators.