Hernit-Grant CS, Macklis JD. 1996. Embryonic neurons transplanted to regions of targeted photolytic cell death in adult mouse somatosensory cortex re-form specific callosal projections. Experimental neurology. 139(1):131-42. Pubmed: 8635560


In the neocortex, the effectiveness of potential transplantation therapy for diseases involving neuronal loss may depend upon whether donor neurons can reestablish the precise long-distance projections that form the basis of sensory, motor, and cognitive function. During corticogenesis, the formation of these connections is affected by tropic factors, extracellular matrix, structural pathways, and developmental cell death. Previous studies demonstrated that embryonic neurons and multipotent neural precursors transplanted into neocortex or mice undergoing photolytically induced, synchronous, apoptotic neuronal degeneration selectively migrate into these regions, where they differentiate into pyramidal neurons and accept afferent synaptic input. The experiments presented here assess whether embryonic neurons transplanted into regions of somatosensory cortex undergoing targeted cell death differentiate further and develop long-distance axons and whether this outgrowth is target specific. Neocortical neurons from Gestational Day 17 mouse embryos were dissociated, prelabeled with fluorescent nanospheres and a lipophilic dye (DiI or PKH), and transplanted into adult mouse primary somatosensory cortex (S1) undergoing apoptotic degeneration of callosal projection neurons. Donor neurons selectively migrated into and differentiated within regions of targeted neuronal death in lamina II/III over a 2-week period, in agreement with our prior studies. To detect possible projections made by donor neurons 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 weeks following transplantation, the retrogradely transported dye fluorogold (FG) was stereotaxically injected into contralateral S1, ipsilateral secondary somatosensory cortex (S2), or ipsilateral thalamus. Ten weeks following transplantation, 21 +/- 5% of the labeled donor neurons were labeled by FG injections into contralateral S1, demonstrating that donor neurons sent projections to the distant area, the original target of host neurons undergoing photolytically induced cell death. No donor neurons were labeled with FG injections into ipsilateral S2 or thalamus, nearby targets of other subpopulations of neurons in S1. These data indicate that in the adult neocortex: (1) transplanted immature neurons are capable of extending long-distance projections between hemispheres through the mature white matter of the corpus callosum and (2) these projections are formed with specificity to replace projections by neurons undergoing synchronous degeneration. These experiments provide an experimental system with which to test factors affecting such outgrowth and connectivity. Taken together, these results suggest that the reconstruction and repair of cortical circuitry responsible for sensory, motor, or cognitive function may be possible in the mature neocortex, if donor neurons or precursor cells are provided with the correct combination of local and distant signals within an appropriately permissive host environment.

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Jeffrey Macklis investigates molecular controls and mechanisms over neuron subtype specification, development, diversity, axon guidance-circuit formation, and pathology in the cerebral cortex. His lab seeks to apply developmental controls toward brain and spinal cord regeneration and directed differentiation for in vitro mechanistic modeling using human assembloids.

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