The upper layers (II-IV) are the most prominent distinguishing feature of mammalian neocortex compared with avian or reptilian dorsal cortex, and are vastly expanded in primates. Although the time-dependent embryonic generation of upper-layer cells is genetically instructed within their parental progenitors, mechanisms governing cell-intrinsic fate transitions remain obscure. POU-homeodomain transcription factors Pou3f3 and Pou3f2 (Brn1 and Brn2) are known to label postmitotic upper-layer cells, and are redundantly required for their production. We find that the onset of Pou3f3/2 expression actually occurs in ventricular zone (VZ) progenitors, and that Pou3f3/2 subsequently label neural progeny switching from deep-layer Ctip2(+) identity to Satb2(+) upper-layer fate as they migrate to proper superficial positions. By using an Engrailed dominant-negative repressor, we show that sustained neurogenesis after the deep- to upper-layer transition requires the proneual action of Pou3fs in VZ progenitors. Conversely, single-gene overexpression of any Pou3f in early neural progenitors is sufficient to specify the precocious birth of Satb2(+) daughter neurons that extend axons to the contralateral hemisphere, as well as exhibit robust pia-directed migration that is characteristic of upper-layer cells. Finally, we demonstrate that Pou3fs influence multiple stages of neurogenesis by suppressing Notch effector Hes5, and promoting the expression of proneural transcription factors Tbr2 and Tbr1.
Keywords: In utero electroporation; Neurogenesis; Upper layer; development; differentiation.