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Dev Neurobiol. 2011 Jan 1;71(1):18-33. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20812.

Interneurons in the developing human neocortex.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030, USA.


Cortical interneurons play a crucial role in the functioning of cortical microcircuitry as they provide inhibitory input to projection (pyramidal) neurons. Despite their involvement in various neurological and psychiatric disorders, our knowledge about their development in human cerebral cortex is still incomplete. Here we demonstrate that at the beginning of corticogenesis, at embryonic 5 gestation weeks (gw, Carnegie stage 16) in human, early neurons could be labeled with calretinin, calbindin, and GABA antibodies. These immunolabeled cells show a gradient from the ganglionic eminences (GE) toward the neocortex, suggesting that GE is a well conserved source of early born cortical interneurons from rodents to human. At mid-term (20 gw), however, a subset of calretinin(+) cells proliferates in the cortical subventricular zone (SVZ), suggesting a second set of interneuron progenitors that have neocortical origin. Neuropeptide Y, somatostatin, or parvalbumin cells are sparse in mid-term cerebral cortex. In addition to the early source of cortical interneurons in the GE and later in the neocortical SVZ, other regions, such as the subpial granular layer, may also contribute to the population of human cortical interneurons. In conclusion, our findings from cryosections and previous in vitro results suggest that cortical interneuron progenitor population is more complex in humans relative to rodents. The increased complexity of progenitors is probably evolutionary adaptation necessary for development of the higher brain functions characteristic to humans.

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