Neuronal migration is an essential step in normal mammalian neocortical development, and the expression of defined cellular and molecular signals within the developing cortical microenvironment is likely crucial to this process. Therapy via transplanted or manipulated endogenous precursors for diseases which involve neuronal loss may depend critically on whether newly incorporated cells can actively migrate to repopulate areas of neuronal loss within the adult brain. Previous studies demonstrated that embryonic neurons and multipotent precursors transplanted into the neocortex of adult mice undergoing targeted apoptosis of pyramidal neurons migrate long distances into neuron-deficient regions, undergo directed differentiation, accept afferent synaptic input, and make appropriate long-distance projections. The experiments presented here: (1) use time-lapse digital confocal imaging of neuronal migration in living slice cultures to assess cellular mechanisms utilized by immature neurons during such long distance migration, and (2) identify changes within the host cortical astroglial population that may contribute to this migration. Prelabeled embryonic day 17 mouse neocortical neurons were transplanted into adult mouse primary somatosensory cortex undergoing targeted apoptotic degeneration of callosal projection neurons. Four to 7 days following transplantation, living slice cultures containing the region of transplanted cells were prepared and observed. Sequential time-lapse images were recorded using a video-based digital confocal microscope. Transplanted cells displayed bipolar morphologies characteristic of migrating neuroblasts and moved in a saltatory manner with mean rates of up to 14 microm/h. To investigate whether a permissive glial phenotype may provide a potential substrate for this directed form of neuronal migration, slice cultures were immunostained with the RC2 monoclonal antibody, which identifies radial glia that act as a substrate for neuronal migration during corticogenesis. RC2 does not label mature stellate astrocytes, which express glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). RC2 expression was observed in glial cells closely apposed to migrating donor neurons within the slice cultures. The timing and specificity of RC2 expression was examined immunocytochemically at various times following transplantation. RC2 immunostaining within regions of neuronal degeneration was transient, with peak staining between 3 and 7 days following transplantation. Strongly RC2-immunoreactive cells that did not express GFAP were found within these regions, but not in distant cortical regions or within control brains. RC2-positive cells were identified in recipient transgenic mice which express beta-galactosidase under a glial specific promoter. Coexpression of RC2 and beta-galactosidase identified these cells as host astroglia. These results demonstrate that adult cortical astrocytes retain the capacity to reexpress an earlier developmental phenotype that may partially underlie the observed active migration of transplanted neurons and neural precursors. Further understanding of these processes could allow directed migration of transplanted or endogenous precursors toward therapeutic cellular repopulation and complex circuit reconstruction in neocortex and other CNS regions.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.