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Cereb Cortex. 2006 Jul;16 Suppl 1:i152-61.

The role of intermediate progenitor cells in the evolutionary expansion of the cerebral cortex.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and the Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


The vertebrate cerebral cortex varies from the 3-layered dorsal cortex of reptiles to the 6-layered lissencephalic cortex characteristic of rodents and to the 6-layered gyrencephalic cortex typical of carnivores and primates. Distinct developmental mechanisms may have evolved independently to account for the radial expansion that produced the multilayered cortex of mammals and for the tangential expansion of cortical surface area that resulted in gyrencephalic cortex. Recent evidence shows that during the late stages of cortical development, radial glial cells divide asymmetrically in the ventricular zone to generate radial glial cells and intermediate progenitor (IP) cells and that IP cells subsequently divide symmetrically in the subventricular zone to produce multiple neurons. We propose that the evolution of this two-step pattern of neurogenesis played an important role in the amplification of cell numbers underlying the radial and tangential expansion of the cerebral cortex.

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