Radial glial (RG) cells have been demonstrated to be a major neural progenitor cell type, but in the human fetal brain, neither their molecular nor their spatiotemporal characteristics are well known. We used glial and neuronal-specific antibodies to determine the antigen characteristics and distribution of RG cells and other neuronal progenitors in the human brain during the first half of intrauterine development. Proliferating RG (4A4+) cells in the ventricular zone (VZ) showed clear caudorostral and ventrodorsal gradients, spreading from the spinal cord to the ventral rhombencephalon, at embryonic stages (4.5-5.5 gestational weeks [gw]). However, in the same embryo, other dividing cells expressed the neuronal marker SMI-31 and were present throughout the entire CNS, including the rostral prosencephalon. At the beginning of cortical neurogenesis (6 gw), proliferating VZ cells labeled either with neuronal markers (SMI-31, MAP2, beta-III-tubulin), double-labeled 4A4(+)/SMI-31+ cells, or cells not labeled with these antibodies, were in close proximity to each other. At midgestation (17-24 gw), RG divisions were less frequent, but were spread throughout the entire cerebral cortex, including the subventricular and intermediate zones and the subpial granular layer. Several subtypes of RG were co-labeled with vimentin and other glial markers (BLBP, GFAP, or GLAST) and quantified in vitro. In conclusion, the diversity of cortical progenitors in the human brain may, in part, explain the unique complexity of the human cerebral cortex.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.