Glial cell lineages in the rat cerebral cortex

Exp Neurol. 1999 Apr;156(2):418-29. doi: 10.1006/exnr.1999.7044.


I have traced the fates of glial cell progenitors in the rat cerebral cortex marked with a recombinant retrovirus throughout most of the period of corticogenesis, from embryonic (E) day 14 to postnatal (P) day 14. Discrete clusters of clonally related glia were examined in serially cut sections, and their phenotypes identified using reliable light and electron microscopic criteria. Analysis of a large number of clones marked with retrovirus at various stages of embryonic life contained, with very few exceptions, either all astrocytes or all oligodendrocytes. This observation suggests that the ventricular zone contains separate progenitor cells for the two glial cell types. Oligodendrocyte clones were rarely seen in the cortices injected with retrovirus at the early stages of corticogenesis (E14-E16), suggesting that there is a very small number of oligodendrocyte progenitors in the ventricular zone at these early stages. Their frequency increased significantly at later embryonic ages. At these later stages, ventricular zone cells also give rise to progenitor cells that make up the subventricular zone in early postnatal life. Injections of retrovirus in this proliferative zone shortly after birth resulted in the generation of labeled astrocyte and oligodendrocyte clones in the cortical gray and white matter, with the astrocyte clones being in the majority. Injections at increasingly later stages resulted in the presence, predominantly in the white matter of both hemispheres and in the corpus callosum, of progressively more oligodendrocyte clones and fewer astrocyte clones. Injections at P14 generated only oligodendrocyte clones in the white matter of both hemispheres. A small number of clusters (<10%) generated after subventricular zone injections contained both astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, suggesting that single subventricular zone cells can differentiate into both glial cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development
  • Female
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Lac Operon
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retroviridae / genetics