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Dev Neurobiol. 2008 Dec;68(14):1527-37. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20677.

Transplanted neurons form both normal and ectopic projections in the adult brain.

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Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Transplantation of embryonic or stem cell derived neurons has been proposed as a potential therapy for several neurological diseases. Previous studies reported that transplanted embryonic neurons extended long-distance projections through the adult brain exclusively to appropriate targets. We transplanted E14 lateral ganglionic eminence (LGE) and E15 cortical precursors from embryonic mice into the intact adult brain and analyzed the projections formed by transplanted neurons. In contrast to previous studies, we found that transplanted embryonic neurons formed distinct long-distance projections to both appropriate and ectopic targets. LGE neurons transplanted into the adult striatum formed projections not only to the substantia nigra, a normal target, but also to the claustrum and through all layers of fronto-orbital cortex, regions that do not normally receive striatal input. In some cases, inappropriate projections outnumbered appropriate projections. To examine the relationship between the donor cells and host brain in establishing the pattern of projections, we transplanted cortical precursors into the adult striatum. Despite their heterotopic location, cortical precursors not only predominantly formed projections appropriate for cortical neurons, but they also formed projections to inappropriate targets. Transplantation of GFP-expressing cells into beta-galactosidase-expressing mice confirmed that the axonal projections were not created by the fusion of donor and host cells. These results suggest that repairing the brain using transplantation may be more complicated than previously expected, because exuberant ectopic projections could result in brain dysfunction. Understanding the signals regulating axonal extension in the adult brain will be necessary to harness stem cells or embryonic neurons for effective neuronal-replacement therapies.

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