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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Feb 19;110(8):E716-25. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1215707110. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Ikaros promotes early-born neuronal fates in the cerebral cortex.

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Gurdon Institute and Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QN, United Kingdom.


During cerebral cortex development, a series of projection neuron types is generated in a fixed temporal order. In Drosophila neuroblasts, the transcription factor hunchback encodes first-born identity within neural lineages. One of its mammalian homologs, Ikaros, was recently reported to play an equivalent role in retinal progenitor cells, raising the question as to whether Ikaros/Hunchback proteins could be general factors regulating the development of early-born fates throughout the nervous system. Ikaros is also expressed in progenitor cells of the mouse cerebral cortex, and this expression is highest during the early stages of neurogenesis and thereafter decreases over time. Transgenic mice with sustained Ikaros expression in cortical progenitor cells and neurons have developmental defects, including displaced progenitor cells within the cortical plate, increased early neural differentiation, and disrupted cortical lamination. Sustained Ikaros expression results in a prolonged period of generation of deep layer neurons into the stages when, normally, only late-born upper layer neurons are generated, as well as a delayed production of late-born neurons. Consequently, more early-born and fewer late-born neurons are present in the cortex of these mice at birth. This phenotype was observed in all parts of the cortex, including those with minimal structural defects, demonstrating that it is not secondary to abnormalities in cortical morphogenesis. These data suggest that Ikaros plays a similar role in regulating early temporal fates in the mammalian cerebral cortex as Ikaros/Hunchback proteins do in the Drosophila nerve cord.

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