Engraftment and differentiation of neocortical progenitor cells transplanted to the embryonic brain in utero
Transplantation of neural progenitors or stem cells is a most useful tool to investigate the relative contribution of cell-autonomous mechanisms and environmental cues in the regulation of cell specification and differentiation during CNS development. To assess the capability of neocortical progenitor cells to integrate into foreign brain regions, here we examined the fate of precursor cells isolated from the dorsal telencephalon of E12 ß-actin-EGFP transgenic mouse embryos after heterotopic/heterochronic transplantation to the E16 rat brain in utero. Our observations show that donor cells were able to penetrate, survive and produce mature cell types into wide regions of the host CNS. Namely, EGFP-positive cells acquired site-specific neuronal identities in many telencephalic regions, including neocortex, hippocampus, olfactory bulb and corpus striatum. In contrast, incorporation into more caudal sites was much less efficient. A fraction of donor cells formed large aggregates that remained segregated from the host milieu. Such aggregates contained mature neurons and glia, including some EGFP-negative elements of host origin, and developed the complex organization of the mature nervous tissue. On the other hand, transplanted cells that engrafted in the parenchyma of extratelencephalic regions predominantly generated glial types. The few neurons failed to acquire obvious site-specific phenotypic traits and did not integrate into the local host architecture. Altogether, our observations indicate that E12 neocortical progenitors are already committed towards regional identities and are unable to modify their phenotypic choices when exposed to heterotopic environmental conditions along different rostro-caudal domains of the embryonic CNS.
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