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Cortex development during mammalian embryogenesis

European scientists investigated the mechanisms that control neuronal migration and distribution during mammalian embryogenesis. Through novel tools it was possible to visualise the migration of specific neuronal populations and identify Ebf3 as an important molecule in maintaining cortex organisation.
Cortex development during mammalian embryogenesis
During mammalian brain development, neuronal cells migrate to their final location. Proper assembly of the neocortex — the outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres, requires precise regulation of neuronal migration. Any abnormalities in this process can result in severe neurological diseases.

To guide this migration, distinct neuronal populations known as the Cajal-Retzius (CR) cells emerge sequentially and help early-generated neurons assemble and grow. However, detailed information on how the positioning of these first neurons is maintained during brain expansion is lacking. The main goal of the EU-funded 'Role of Ebf3 in the distribution of Cajal-Retzius cells' (NEUROMIGRATION) project was to understand the mechanisms that control the distribution of CR cells in the cortex during developmental growth.

Using mouse genetics and imaging, scientists demonstrated that a secondary wave of active migration is required for CR cells’ maintenance. These CR cells seem to come from a transient reservoir located in the prospective olfactory cortex, and proved instrumental in sustaining cortical organisation and specification.

Furthermore, it was shown that this secondary migration was regulated by the transcription factor Ebf3. Studies on transgenic mice with Ebf3 deletion revealed the importance of this molecule in the distribution of CR cells in the cerebral cortex. Areas with aberrant CR cell distribution were associated with defective cortex organisation, emphasising the significance of the CR cells at late stages of embryonic development.

Taken together, the NEUROMIGRATION findings support a novel role for neuronal migration in the homeostasis of neural circuits during developmental growth.

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