The developing central nervous system of vertebrates contains an abundant cell type designated radial glial cells. These cells are known as guiding cables for migrating neurons, while their role as precursor cells is less clear. Since radial glial cells express a variety of astroglial characteristics and differentiate as astrocytes after completing their guidance function, they have been considered as part of the glial lineage. Using fluorescence-activated cell sorting, we show here that radial glial cells also are neuronal precursors and only later, after neurogenesis, do they shift towards an exclusive generation of astrocytes. These results thus demonstrate a novel function for radial glial cells, namely their ability to generate two major cell types found in the nervous system, neurons and astrocytes.

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