The mammalian central nervous system is organized by a variety of cells such as neurons and glial cells. These cells are generated from a common progenitor, the neural stem cell (NSC). NSCs are defined as undifferentiated neural cells that are characterized by their high proliferative potential while retaining the capacity for self-renewal and multipotency. Glycoconjugates carrying carbohydrate antigens, including glycoproteins, glycolipids, and proteoglycans, are primarily localized on the plasma-membrane surface of cells and serve as excellent biomarkers at various stages of cellular differentiation. Moreover, they also play important functional roles in determining cell fate such as self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation. In the present review, we discuss the expression pattern and possible functions of glycoconjugates and carbohydrate antigens in NSCs, with an emphasis on stage-specific embryonic antigen-1, human natural killer antigen-1, polysialic acid-neural cell-adhesion molecule, prominin-1, gp130, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, heparan sulfate proteoglycans, cystatin C, galectin-1, glycolipids, and Notch.
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