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In vivo cell biology of cerebral cortical development and its related neurological disorders: cellular insights into neurogenesis and neuronal migration

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The brain consists of a complex but precisely organized neural network that forms the structural basis of higher order functions. Amazingly, such a complex structure originates from a simple pseudostratified neuroepithelium. During development of the mammalian cerebral cortex, neuroepithelial cell-derived ...

The brain consists of a complex but precisely organized neural network that forms the structural basis of higher order functions. Amazingly, such a complex structure originates from a simple pseudostratified neuroepithelium. During development of the mammalian cerebral cortex, neuroepithelial cell-derived neural progenitors undergo symmetric cell divisions to expand a pool of progenitors. Subsequently, these cells predominantly divide asymmetrically to give rise to neurons. Disruptions of the fine balance between proliferation and differentiation result in cortical malformations, such as microcephaly or megalencephaly. After the final cell division, neurons need to orientate, migrate and mature to their fully functional form. This is a multi-step process during which neurons undergo a number of morphological changes. Immature neurons may initially assume a multipolar morphology and then migrate having converted to a bipolar shape. In migrating neurons a leading and trailing process is clearly distinguishable, the latter of which may become an axon. At the final phase of migration, neurons begin dendritic branching and maturation. The multiple modes of neuronal migration and accompanying maturation steps are also closely associated with several neurological disorders, such as lissencephaly, periventricular heterotopia, dyslexia and schizophrenia.
Our understanding of cortical development has significantly advanced in the last decade, owing to the combined application of human genetics and biochemical analyses with a number of novel techniques, particularly in vivo electroporation and time-lapse analyses of explant slice cultures. This has allowed for cellular biological analyses of cortical development in vivo or ex vivo, thus lessening the gap between genetic (in vivo) and biochemical (in vitro) studies. This combinatorial approach provides evidence that the complex processes of brain development are based on the cooperation of various cellular events, such as cell cycle regulation, cytoskeletal organization, cell adhesion and membrane trafficking.
To obtain as complete a picture of cortical development as possible, we must focus on neurogenesis, neuronal migration and axon/dendrite formation, and its related neurological disorders from the viewpoint of “in vivo cell biology”. To this end, we welcome review, perspective and original research papers that address these topics. We also welcome contributions on brain evolution, neurodegenerative diseases, and key findings for neurogenesis, neuronal migration and axon/dendrite formation in other brain regions, since they are also important for understanding cerebral cortical development.


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