Excitatory Cortical Neurons with Multipolar Shape Establish Neuronal Polarity by Forming a Tangentially Oriented Axon in the Intermediate Zone

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Abstract

The formation of axon-dendrite polarity is crucial for neuron to make the proper information flow within the brain. Although the processes of neuronal polarity formation have been extensively studied using neurons in dissociated culture, the corresponding developmental processes in vivo are still unclear. Here, we illuminate the initial steps of morphological polarization of excitatory cortical neurons in situ, by sparsely labeling their neuroepithelial progenitors using in utero electroporation and then examining their neuronal progeny in brain sections and in slice cultures. Morphological analysis showed that an axon-like long tangential process formed in progeny cells in the intermediate zone (IZ). Time-lapse imaging analysis using slice culture revealed that progeny cells with multipolar shape, after alternately extending and retracting their short processes for several hours, suddenly elongated a long process tangentially. These cells then transformed into a bipolar shape, extending a pia-directed leading process, and migrated radially leaving the tangential process behind, which gave rise to an “L-shaped” axon. Our findings suggest that neuronal polarity in these cells is established de novo from a nonpolarized stage in vivo and indicate that excitatory cortical neurons with multipolar shape in the IZ initiate axon outgrowth before radial migration into the cortical plate.

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