Neural stem/progenitor cell (NSPC) self-renewal and differentiation in the developing and the adult brain are controlled by extra-cellular signals and by the inherent competence of NSPCs to produce appropriate responses. Stage-dependent responsiveness of NSPCs to extrinsic cues is orchestrated at the epigenetic level. Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, histone modifications and non-coding RNA-mediated regulation control crucial aspects of NSPC development and function, and are also implicated in pathological conditions. While their roles in the regulation of stem cell fate have been largely explored in pluripotent stem cell models, the epigenetic signature of NSPCs is also key to determine their multipotency as well as their progressive bias towards specific differentiation outcomes.Here we review recent developments in this field, focusing on the roles of histone methylation marks and the protein complexes controlling their deposition in NSPCs of the developing cerebral cortex and the adult subventricular zone. In this context, we describe how bivalent promoters, carrying antagonistic epigenetic modifications, feature during multiple steps of neural development, from neural lineage specification to neuronal differentiation. Furthermore, we discuss the emerging cross-talk between epigenetic regulators and microRNAs, and how the interplay between these different layers of regulation can finely tune the expression of genes controlling NSPC maintenance and differentiation. In particular, we highlight recent advances in the identification of astrocyte-enriched microRNAs and their function in cell fate choices of NSPCs differentiating towards glial lineages.
Keywords: Neural stem/progenitor cells, Cell proliferation, Neurogenesis, Gliogenesis, Histone methylation, Polycomb repressing complex, microRNAs.