Selective depletion of molecularly defined cortical interneurons in human holoprosencephaly with severe striatal hypoplasia

Cereb Cortex. 2009 Sep;19(9):2196-207. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp009. Epub 2009 Feb 20.


Cortical excitatory glutamatergic projection neurons and inhibitory GABAergic interneurons follow substantially different developmental programs. In rodents, projection neurons originate from progenitors within the dorsal forebrain, whereas interneurons arise from progenitors in the ventral forebrain. In contrast, it has been proposed that in humans, the majority of cortical interneurons arise from progenitors within the dorsal forebrain, suggesting that their origin and migration is complex and evolutionarily divergent. However, whether molecularly defined human cortical interneuron subtypes originate from distinct progenitors, including those in the ventral forebrain, remains unknown. Furthermore, abnormalities in cortical interneurons have been linked to human disorders, yet no distinct cell population selective loss has been reported. Here we show that cortical interneurons expressing nitric oxide synthase 1, neuropeptide Y, and somatostatin, are either absent or substantially reduced in fetal and infant cases of human holoprosencephaly (HPE) with severe ventral forebrain hypoplasia. Notably, another interneuron subtype normally abundant from the early fetal period, marked by calretinin expression, and different subtypes of projection neuron were present in the cortex of control and HPE brains. These findings have important implications for the understanding of neuronal pathogenesis underlying the clinical manifestations associated with HPE and the developmental origins of human cortical interneuron diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / abnormalities*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / abnormalities*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology
  • Holoprosencephaly / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Interneurons / pathology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents