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Journal Article

Neural progenitor cells and their role in the development and evolutionary expansion of the neocortex.

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Namba, T., & Huttner, W. B. (2017). Neural progenitor cells and their role in the development and evolutionary expansion of the neocortex. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Developmental biology, 6(1): e256. doi:10.1002/wdev.256.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-8CEC-7
The evolutionary expansion of the mammalian brain, notably the neocortex, provides a platform for the higher cognitive abilities that characterize humans. Cortical expansion is accompanied by increased folding of the pial surface, which gives rise to a gyrencephalic (folded) rather than lissencephalic (unfolded) neocortex. This expansion reflects the prolonged and increased proliferation of neural stem and progenitor cells (NPCs). Distinct classes of NPCs can be distinguished based on either cell biological criteria (apical progenitors [APs], basal progenitors [BPs]) or lineage (primary progenitors and secondary progenitors). Cortical expansion in development and evolution is linked to an increased abundance and proliferative capacity of BPs, notably basal radial glial cells, a recently characterized type of secondary progenitor derived from apical radial glial cells, the primary progenitors. To gain insight into the molecular basis underlying the prolonged and increased proliferation of NPCs and in particular BPs, comparative genomic and transcriptomic approaches, mostly for human versus mouse, have been employed and applied to specific NPC types and subpopulations. These have revealed two principal sets of molecular changes. One concerns differences in the expression of common genes between species with different degrees of cortical expansion. The other comprises human-specific genes or genomic regulatory sequences. Various systems that allow functional testing of these genomic and gene expression differences between species have emerged, including transient and stable transgenesis, genome editing, cerebral organoids, and organotypic slice cultures. These provide future avenues for uncovering the molecular basis of cortical expansion. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.