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Development. 1995 Apr;121(4):1151-60.

Regulation of regional differences in the differentiation of cerebral cortical neurons by EGF family-matrix interactions.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19129, USA.


Both lineage-based and epigenetic regulation have been postulated as mechanisms to control the formation of discrete areas in the cerebral cortex, but specific genes or signaling pathways that may be involved have yet to be defined. In this paper, we examine whether progenitors, isolated from the cerebral wall prior to neurogenesis, can respond to exogenous cues by adopting a region-specific phenotype. The expression of the limbic system-associated membrane protein (LAMP), a neuron-specific marker of limbic cortical areas, was monitored in cultured neurons arising from precursors harvested from presumptive perirhinal (limbic) and sensorimotor (nonlimbic) zones at embryonic day 12 in the rat. Neuronal phenotype in all cultures was identified by expression of microtubule-associated protein-2 (MAP2). On a substrate of poly-lysine, over 80% of the precursors from the limbic area that differentiate into neurons express a LAMP+ phenotype. Approximately 20% of the neurons generated from precursors of the sensorimotor region become LAMP+. However, modification of the microenvironment had a significant effect on the differentiation of the sensorimotor precursors. When the nonlimbic precursors are grown on Matrigel, there is a 2-fold increase in the number of MAP2+/LAMP+ double-labeled neurons. Dissection of the Matrigel components reveals that in combination with growth factor-deficient Matrigel or collagen type IV, epidermal growth factor and transforming growth factor-alpha increase LAMP expression in the sensorimotor population. Delaying the addition of growth factor until after most cell division had ceased failed to increase the number of LAMP+ neurons. Another growth factor in Matrigel, platelet-derived growth factor, does not produce the same effect. Our results indicate that local signals can regulate the differentiation of cortical progenitors, providing a potential mechanism for establishing an early commitment to specific regional phenotypes in the developing cerebral wall that relate to future functional domains in the cortex.

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