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Stem Cells International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 672312, 12 pages
Research Article

Oleanolic Acid Induces Differentiation of Neural Stem Cells to Neurons: An Involvement of Transcription Factor Nkx-2.5

1Institute of Integrated Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200040, China
2Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Department of Perinatal Medicine Pregnancy Research Centre, Royal Women’s Hospital, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia
3Shanghai Institute of Geriatrics, Huadong Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200040, China
4School of Acupuncture, Massage and Rehabilitation, Yunnan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kunming 650500, China

Received 29 September 2014; Accepted 16 January 2015

Academic Editor: Pritha Ray

Copyright © 2015 You Ning et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Neural stem cells (NSCs) harbor the potential to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes under normal conditions and/or in response to tissue damage. NSCs open a new way of treatment of the injured central nervous system and neurodegenerative disorders. Thus far, few drugs have been developed for controlling NSC functions. Here, the effect as well as mechanism of oleanolic acid (OA), a pentacyclic triterpenoid, on NSC function was investigated. We found OA significantly inhibited neurosphere formation in a dose-dependent manner and achieved a maximum effect at 10 nM. OA also reduced 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU) incorporation into NSCs, which was indicative of inhibited NSC proliferation. Western blotting analysis revealed the protein levels of neuron-specific marker tubulin-βIII (TuJ1) and Mash1 were increased whilst the astrocyte-specific marker glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) decreased. Immunofluorescence analysis showed OA significantly elevated the percentage of TuJ1-positive cells and reduced GFAP-positive cells. Using DNA microarray analysis, 183 genes were differentially regulated by OA. Through transcription factor binding site analyses of the upstream regulatory sequences of these genes, 87 genes were predicted to share a common motif for Nkx-2.5 binding. Finally, small interfering RNA (siRNA) methodology was used to silence Nkx-2.5 expression and found silence of Nkx-2.5 alone did not change the expression of TuJ-1 and the percentage of TuJ-1-positive cells. But in combination of OA treatment and silence of Nkx-2.5, most effects of OA on NSCs were abolished. These results indicated that OA is an effective inducer for NSCs differentiation into neurons at least partially by Nkx-2.5-dependent mechanism.