Rouaux C, Arlotta P. 2013. Direct lineage reprogramming of post-mitotic callosal neurons into corticofugal neurons in vivo. Nature cell biology. 15(2):214-21. Pubmed: 23334497 DOI:10.1038/ncb2660


Once programmed to acquire a specific identity and function, cells rarely change in vivo. Neurons of the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) in particular are a classic example of a stable, terminally differentiated cell type. With the exception of the adult neurogenic niches, where a limited set of neuronal subtypes continue to be generated throughout life, CNS neurons are born only during embryonic and early postnatal development. Once generated, neurons become permanently post-mitotic and do not change their identity for the lifespan of the organism. Here, we have investigated whether excitatory neurons of the neocortex can be instructed to directly reprogram their identity post-mitotically from one subtype into another, in vivo. We show that embryonic and early postnatal callosal projection neurons of layer II/III can be post-mitotically lineage reprogrammed into layer-V/VI corticofugal projection neurons following expression of the transcription factor encoded by Fezf2. Reprogrammed callosal neurons acquire molecular properties of corticofugal projection neurons and change their axonal connectivity from interhemispheric, intracortical projections to corticofugal projections directed below the cortex. The data indicate that during a window of post-mitotic development neurons can change their identity, acquiring critical features of alternative neuronal lineages.

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Dr. Arlotta is interested in understanding the molecular laws that govern the birth, differentiation and assembly of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls how we sense, move and think. She integrates developmental and evolutionary knowledge to investigate therapies for brain repair and for modeling neuropsychiatric disease.

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