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J Neurobiol. 1998 Aug;36(2):162-74.

Stem cells in the embryonic cerebral cortex: their role in histogenesis and patterning.

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Albany Medical College, New York 12208-3479, USA.


The cytoarchitectural simplicity of the cerebral cortex makes it an attractive system to study central nervous system (CNS) histogenesis--the process whereby diverse cells are generated in the right numbers at the appropriate place and time. Recently, multipotent stem cells have been implicated in this process, as progenitor cells for diverse types of cortical neurons and glia. Continuous analysis of stem cell clone development reveals stereotyped division patterns within their lineage trees, highly reminiscent of neural lineage trees in arthropods and Caenorhabditis elegans. Given that these division patterns play a critical part in generating diverse neural types in invertebrates, we speculate that they play a similar role in the cortex. Because stereotyped lineage trees can be observed from cells growing at clonal density, cell-intrinsic factors are likely to have a key role in stem cell behavior. Cortical stem cells also respond to environmental signals to alter the types of cells they generate, providing the means for feedback regulation on the germinal zone. Evidence is accumulating that cortical stem cells, influenced by intrinsic programs and environmental signals, actually change with development-for example, by reducing the number and types of neurons they produce. Age-related changes in the stem cell population may have a critical role in orchestrating development; whether these cells truly self-renew is a point of discussion. In summary, we propose that cortical stem cells are the focus of regulatory mechanisms central to the development of the cortical cytoarchitecture.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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