The Functions of Radial Glia Cell Markers

This article offers a summary of radial glia markers that are in widespread use.

During neurogenesis, there is a transformation of neuroepithelial (NE) cells to radial glia. Epithelial features like tight junctions are downregulated in favor of adherens junctions. Glial hallmarks start to emerge, including astrocyte markers and morphological features like glycogen granules.


Vimentin is an intermediate filament protein whose expression is upregulated throughout the epithelial to mesenchymal transition of NE cells to radial glia and continues until astrocyte development

Rhesus monkey brain tissue sections stained with anti-vimentin (ab92547).

Vimentin inhibitor and antiangiogenic agent: Withaferin A (ab120644).


This is a transcription factor that promotes neurgenesis.

Mouse embryonic (E12.5) brain sections stained with anti-PAX6 (ab5790).

HES1 and HES5

Transcription factors that regulate the maintenance of radial glia.

Mouse brain tissue sections stained with anti-HES5 (red) (ab25374).

Astrocytic Markers: GFAP, GLAST, and BLBP

These astrocytic markers emerge as neuroepithelial cells become radial glia.

Rat embryonic (E16) spinal cord sections stained with anti-BLBP (ab32423).

Downregulator of GFAP expression: Methylprednisolone (ab142007).

Adhesion and Extracellular Matrix Molecules: TN-C and N-Cadherin

Upregulation of adhesion and extracellular matrix proteins accompanies the transformation of NE cells into radial glia.

Mouse embryonic coronal cortical section stained with anti-N -cadherin (red) (ab76011).


This is an intermediate filament protein in NE cells and radial glia, whose expression persists until astrocyte development.

Rat adult brain tissue sections stained with anti-nestin (ab6142).


SOX2 is a transcription factor and the first marker of the neural plate. It is shown in proliferating cells and those that acquire glial fates, but downregulated in post-mitotic neurons.

Chicken embryonic (E7) brain tissue sections stained with anti-SOX2 (ab97959).

References and Further Reading

  • Bargagna-Mohan, P. et al. The tumor inhibitor and antiangiogenic agent withaferin A targets the intermediate filament protein vimentin. Chem. Biol. 14, 623–34 (2007).
  • Bylund, M., Andersson, E., Novitch, B. G. & Muhr, J. Vertebrate neurogenesis is counteracted by Sox1-3 activity. Nat Neurosci 6, 1162–1168 (2003).
  • Heins, N. et al. Glial cells generate neurons: the role of the transcription factor Pax6. Nat. Neurosci. 5, 308–315 (2002).
  • Kageyama, R., Ohtsuka, T. & Kobayashi, T. Roles of Hes genes in neural development. Development Growth and Differentiation 50, (2008).
  • Kriegstein, A. & Alvarez-Buylla, A. The glial nature of embryonic and adult neural stem cells. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 32, 149–84 (2009).
  • Kriegstein, A. R. & Götz, M. Radial glia diversity: A matter of cell fate. Glia 43, 37–43 (2003).
  • Kriegstein, A. & Alvarez-Buylla, A. The glial nature of embryonic and adult neural stem cells. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 32, 149–84 (2009).
  • Lamouille, S., Xu, J. & Derynck, R. Molecular mechanisms of epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol. 15, 178–96 (2014).
  • Liu, W.-L. et al. Methylprednisolone inhibits the expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans in reactivated astrocytes. Glia 56, 1390–400 (2008).
  • Papanayotou, C. et al. A mechanism regulating the onset of Sox2 expression in the embryonic neural plate. Plos Biol 6, e2 (2008).

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Last updated: Jan 30, 2020 at 5:40 AM


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