Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 186, Issue 5, pp 477–486 | Cite as

Origin and fate of fetuin-containing neurons in the developing neocortex of the fetal sheep

  • N. R. Saunders
  • M. D. Habgood
  • R. A. Ward
  • M. L. Reynolds
Original Articles


The development of the neocortex has previously been extensively studied in carnivores (cat and ferret), rodents (rat and mouse) and primates (monkey and human). In these species, it has been shown that the initial population of cells migrating from the ventricular zone forms the primordial plexiform layer. This is subsequently split into marginal zone and subplate zone by the insertion of later-migrating cells into the primordial plexiform layer, to form the cortical plate proper. Many of the cells derived from the split primordial plexiform layer are transient. The neurons of the subplate zone are found in the deeper part of layer VI, and white matter deep to layer VI in the more mature cortex; most of these neurons disappear by adulthood. [3H]-thymidine labelling in the present study has shown a similar pattern of neocortical development in Artiodactyla (sheep). In addition it has been shown that the previously described staining of subplate and cortical plate cells for the fetal protein fetuin indicates that fetuin is a useful marker for a proportion of this transient population of neurons and defines its extent in neocortical development more clearly. Dividing cells were labelled by a single intra-amniotic injection of [3H]-thymidine at E26 to E35 (birth is at E150). The brains were subsequently examined at E40 or E80 for [3H]-thymidine labelling and fetuin staining by a combination of autoradiography and immunocytochemistry. The earliest generated neocortical cells detected in this study (E26) were found in two layers by E40, the outer marginal zone and inner subplate zone. Neurons of the marginal zone were generated up to E28; those of the early subplate zone were generated up to E31. The cortical plate proper was generated by cells “born” on E32 and later. This sequence is similar to that described in other species, especially the cat. A proportion of the early-generated neurons in the marginal zone, subplate zone and early cortical plate stained for fetuin. By E80 these earliest-generated, fetuin-positive cells were found in the white matter deep to the forming neocortical layers and in layer VI. In adult brains no fetuin-positive neurons could be identified in the neocortex, and neurons had almost entirely disappeared from the white matter. The fetal glycoprotein fetuin seems to be specifically associated with a population of cells that has the same developmental history as the transient marginal zone and subplate neurons described in other species. However, the distribution of fetuin-containing neurons is more extensive and includes some of the neurons within the cortical plate itself. Thus in addition to being a marker for a proportion of the transient marginal zone and subplate cells, the presence of fetuin in subplate and cortical plate neurons, given the “trophic” properties attributed to fetuin, may indicate its involvement in early stages of synaptogenesis and connectivity in the developing neocortex.

Key words

Fetal sheep Developing neocortex Fetuin 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. R. Saunders
    • 1
  • M. D. Habgood
    • 1
  • R. A. Ward
    • 2
  • M. L. Reynolds
    • 3
  1. 1.Clinical Neurological Sciences (Developmental), Southampton General HospitalSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Department of Physiology and PharmacologyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Department of Anatomy and Developmental BiologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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