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Prog Neurobiol. 2012 Jul;98(1):1-15. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2012.05.002. Epub 2012 May 17.

New scenarios for neuronal structural plasticity in non-neurogenic brain parenchyma: the case of cortical layer II immature neurons.

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Neuroscience Institute Cavalieri Ottolenghi (NICO), Regione Gonzole 10, Orbassano (TO), and Department of Veterinary Morphophysiology, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.


The mammalian central nervous system, due to its interaction with the environment, must be endowed with plasticity. Conversely, the nervous tissue must be substantially static to ensure connectional invariability. Structural plasticity can be viewed as a compromise between these requirements. In adult mammals, brain structural plasticity is strongly reduced with respect to other animal groups in the phylogenetic tree. It persists under different forms, which mainly consist of remodeling of neuronal shape and connectivity, and, to a lesser extent, the production of new neurons. Adult neurogenesis is mainly restricted within two neurogenic niches, yet some gliogenic and neurogenic processes also occur in the so-called non-neurogenic tissue, starting from parenchymal progenitors. In this review we focus on a population of immature, non-newly generated neurons in layer II of the cerebral cortex, which were previously thought to be newly generated since they heavily express the polysialylated form of the neural cell adhesion molecule and doublecortin. These unusual neurons exhibit characteristics defining an additional type of structural plasticity, different from either synaptic plasticity or adult neurogenesis. Evidences concerning their morphology, antigenic features, ultrastructure, phenotype, origin, fate, and reaction to different kind of stimulations are gathered and analyzed. Their possible role is discussed in the context of an enriched complexity and heterogeneity of mammalian brain structural plasticity.

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