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Elife. 2016 Sep 26;5. pii: e18683. doi: 10.7554/eLife.18683.

Differences and similarities between human and chimpanzee neural progenitors during cerebral cortex development.

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Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
Institute of Laboratory Animals, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
Department of Reprogramming Science, Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, Shanghai, China.
Universitätsklinikum Carl Gustav Carus, Klinik und Poliklinik für Frauenheilkunde und Geburtshilfe, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany.


Human neocortex expansion likely contributed to the remarkable cognitive abilities of humans. This expansion is thought to primarily reflect differences in proliferation versus differentiation of neural progenitors during cortical development. Here, we have searched for such differences by analysing cerebral organoids from human and chimpanzees using immunohistofluorescence, live imaging, and single-cell transcriptomics. We find that the cytoarchitecture, cell type composition, and neurogenic gene expression programs of humans and chimpanzees are remarkably similar. Notably, however, live imaging of apical progenitor mitosis uncovered a lengthening of prometaphase-metaphase in humans compared to chimpanzees that is specific to proliferating progenitors and not observed in non-neural cells. Consistent with this, the small set of genes more highly expressed in human apical progenitors points to increased proliferative capacity, and the proportion of neurogenic basal progenitors is lower in humans. These subtle differences in cortical progenitors between humans and chimpanzees may have consequences for human neocortex evolution.


cell biology; cell division; cerebral organoids; chimpanzee; cortical development; developmental biology; human; mouse; neural stem and progenitor cells; single-cell RNA-seq; stem cells

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