Pattern of Neurogenesis and Identification of Neuronal Progenitor Subtypes during Pallial Development in Xenopus laevis

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Frontiers in Neuroanatomy
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The complexity of the pallium during evolution has increased dramatically in many different respects. The highest level of complexity is found in mammals, where most of the pallium (cortex) shows a layered organization and neurons are generated during development following an inside-out order, a sequence not observed in other amniotes (birds and reptiles). Species-differences may be related to major neurogenetic events, from the neural progenitors that divide and produce all pallial cells. In mammals, two main types of precursors have been described, primary precursor cells in the ventricular zone (vz; also called radial glial cells or apical progenitors) and secondary precursor cells (called basal or intermediate progenitors) separated from the ventricle surface. Previous studies suggested that pallial neurogenetic cells, and especially the intermediate progenitors, evolved independently in mammalian and sauropsid lineages. In the present study, we examined pallial neurogenesis in the amphibian Xenopus laevis, a representative species of the only group of tetrapods that are anamniotes. The pattern of pallial proliferation during embryonic and larval development was studied, together with a multiple immunohistochemical analysis of putative progenitor cells. We found that there are two phases of progenitor divisions in the developing pallium that, following the radial unit concept from the ventricle to the mantle, finally result in an outside-in order of mature neurons, what seems to be the primitive condition of vertebrates. Gene expressions of key transcription factors that characterize radial glial cells in the vz were demonstrated in Xenopus. In addition, although mitotic cells were corroborated outside the vz, the expression pattern of markers for intermediate progenitors differed from mammals.