Ascl1 participates in Cajal–Retzius cell development in the neocortex


Cajal-Retzius cells are essential pioneer neurons that guide neuronal migration in the developing neocortex. During development, Cajal-Retzius cells arise from distinct progenitor domains that line the margins of the dorsal telencephalon, or pallium. Here, we show that the proneural gene Ascl1 is expressed in Cajal-Retzius cell progenitors in the pallial septum, ventral pallium, and cortical hem. Using a short-term lineage trace, we demonstrate that it is primarily the Ascl1-expressing progenitors in the pallial septum and ventral pallium that differentiate into Cajal-Retzius cells. Accordingly, we found a small, albeit significant reduction in the number of Reelin(+) and Trp73(+) Cajal-Retzius cells in the Ascl1(-/-) neocortex. Conversely, using a gain-of-function approach, we found that Ascl1 induces the expression of both Reelin, a Cajal-Retzius marker, and Tbr1, a marker of pallial-derived neurons, in a subset of early-stage pallial progenitors, an activity that declines over developmental time. Taken together, our data indicate that the proneural gene Ascl1 is required and sufficient to promote the differentiation of a subset of Cajal-Retzius neurons during early neocortical development. Notably, this is the first study that reports a function for Ascl1 in the pallium, as this gene is best known for its role in specifying subpallial neuronal identities.

Journal details

Journal Cerebral Cortex
Volume 21
Issue number 11
Pages 2599-2611
Publication date