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Genetics of patterning the cerebral cortex
Date:10/13/2009

ke progenitor cells known as neuroepithelial cells undergo symmetric cell division to expand the pool of neuroepithelial cells. Later, they differentiate into more mature progenitor cells referred to as radial glia, which divide asymmetrically to produce a constant stream of both progenitors and neurons, the latter migrating outward to establish the gray matter of specialized cortical regions.

In a study published earlier this year, O'Leary and Setsuko Sahara, Ph.D., a senior research associate in the O'Leary lab, uncovered that the growth factor Fgf10 controls the timing of the critical transition period that bridges the early expansion phase of neuroepithelial cells and the later neurogenic phase of radial glia. Now, the Salk researchers wanted to know when and how these cells acquire their future regional identity.

The predominant model for determining genetic mechanisms that specify the production of distinct types of neurons has been the spinal cord. "In the spinal cord distinct subpopulations of progenitors that generate different classes of neurons are defined by unique sets of transcriptions factors, and are separated by sharp spatial borders," explains O'Leary. "But in the cerebral cortex the situation is very different. There are no genes that we or anybody else have identified that define separate subpopulations of progenitors that generate neurons that form the different regions of the cerebral cortex. Thus a different mechanism must operate."

The defining characteristic of progenitor cells that will go on to form the cerebral cortex is the expression of Emx1, a homeodomain transcription factor. O'Leary proposed that the regional identity of progenitors in the Emx1 lineage may involve a graded expression of one or more transcription factors that define unique subpopulations of progenitors via differences in their expression levels. The most promising candidate was Lhx2, which is expressed in all progenitors of the Emx1 lineag
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Contact: Gina Kirchweger
kirchweger@salk.edu
858-453-4100 x1340
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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