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Cereb Cortex. 2015 Jan;25(1):213-20. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht219. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Human von Economo neurons express transcription factors associated with Layer V subcerebral projection neurons.

Author information

1
Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA Current address: Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.
2
Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.

Abstract

The von Economo neurons (VENs) are large bipolar Layer V projection neurons found chiefly in the anterior cingulate and frontoinsular cortices. Although VENs have been linked to prevalent illnesses such as frontotemporal dementia, autism, and schizophrenia, little is known about VEN identity, including their major projection targets. Here, we undertook a developmental transcription factor expression study, focusing on markers associated with specific classes of Layer V projection neurons. Using mRNA in situ hybridization, we found that VENs prominently express FEZF2 and CTIP2, transcription factors that regulate the fate and differentiation of subcerebral projection neurons, in humans aged 3 months to 65 years. In contrast, few VENs expressed markers associated with callosal or corticothalamic projections. These findings suggest that VENs may represent a specialized Layer V projection neuron for linking cortical autonomic control sites to brainstem or spinal cord regions.

KEYWORDS:

anterior insula; axon targeting; cell identity; molecular specification; neuronal connectivity

PMID:
23960210
PMCID:
PMC4318933
DOI:
10.1093/cercor/bht219
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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