Cell migration in the normal and pathological postnatal mammalian brain

Prog Neurobiol. 2009 May;88(1):41-63. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2009.02.001. Epub 2009 Feb 11.


In the developing brain, cell migration is a crucial process for structural organization, and is therefore highly regulated to allow the correct formation of complex networks, wiring neurons, and glia. In the early postnatal brain, late developmental processes such as the production and migration of astrocyte and oligodendrocyte progenitors still occur. Although the brain is completely formed and structured few weeks after birth, it maintains a degree of plasticity throughout life, including axonal remodeling, synaptogenesis, but also neural cell birth, migration and integration. The subventricular zone (SVZ) and the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus are the two main neurogenic niches in the adult brain. Neural stem cells reside in these structures and produce progenitors that migrate toward their ultimate location: the olfactory bulb and granular cell layer of the DG respectively. The aim of this review is to synthesize the increasing information concerning the organization, regulation and function of cell migration in a mature brain. In a normal brain, proteins involved in cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions together with secreted proteins acting as chemoattractant or chemorepellant play key roles in the regulation of neural progenitor cell migration. In addition, recent data suggest that gliomas arise from the transformation of neural stem cells or progenitor cells and that glioma cell infiltration recapitulates key aspects of glial progenitor migration. Thus, we will consider glioma migration in the context of progenitor migration. Finally, many observations show that brain lesions and neurological diseases trigger neural stem/progenitor cell activation and migration toward altered structures. The factors involved in such cell migration/recruitment are just beginning to be understood. Inflammation which has long been considered as thoroughly disastrous for brain repair is now known to produce some positive effects on stem/progenitor cell recruitment via the regulation of growth factor signaling and the secretion of a number of chemoattractant cytokines. This knowledge is crucial for the development of new therapeutic strategies. One of these strategies could consist in increasing the mobilization of endogenous progenitor cells that could replace lost cells and improve functional recovery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology