Early acquisition of typical metabolic features upon differentiation of mouse neural stem cells into astrocytes.
Specific metabolic features, such as glutamate reuptake, have been associated with normal functions of mature astrocytes. In this study, we examined whether these characteristics are acquired together with classical phenotypic markers of differentiated astrocytes. Differentiation of E14 mouse neurospheres into astrocytes was induced by the addition of fetal bovine serum (FBS). Degree of differentiation was assessed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunofluorescence for both GFAP and nestin. Neural stem cells expressed nestin but not GFAP, while differentiated astrocytes were immunopositive for GFAP but displayed low levels of nestin expression. A strong increase in the expression of the glutamate transporter GLAST and the monocarboxylate transporter MCT1 accompanied phenotypic changes. In addition, active glutamate transport appeared in differentiated astrocytes, as well as their capacity to increase aerobic glycolysis in response to glutamate. Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and ciliary neurotrophic factor, but not interleukin-6, triggered the expression of phenotypic and morphological characteristics of astrocytes. In addition, exposure to LIF led to the appearance of metabolic features typically associated with astrocytes. Altogether, our results show that acquisition of some specific metabolic features by astrocytes occurs early in their differentiation process and that LIF represents a candidate signal to induce their expression.