Transplanted embryonic neurons integrate into adult neocortical circuits

Nature. 2016 Nov 10;539(7628):248-253. doi: 10.1038/nature20113. Epub 2016 Oct 26.


The ability of the adult mammalian brain to compensate for neuronal loss caused by injury or disease is very limited. Transplantation aims to replace lost neurons, but the extent to which new neurons can integrate into existing circuits is unknown. Here, using chronic in vivo two-photon imaging, we show that embryonic neurons transplanted into the visual cortex of adult mice mature into bona fide pyramidal cells with selective pruning of basal dendrites, achieving adult-like densities of dendritic spines and axonal boutons within 4-8 weeks. Monosynaptic tracing experiments reveal that grafted neurons receive area-specific, afferent inputs matching those of pyramidal neurons in the normal visual cortex, including topographically organized geniculo-cortical connections. Furthermore, stimulus-selective responses refine over the course of many weeks and finally become indistinguishable from those of host neurons. Thus, grafted neurons can integrate with great specificity into neocortical circuits that normally never incorporate new neurons in the adult brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Tracking
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism
  • Efferent Pathways
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Neocortex / cytology*
  • Neocortex / physiology
  • Neural Pathways*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / transplantation*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology