We demonstrate that cortical interneurons derived from ventral eminences, including the caudal ganglionic eminence, undergo programmed cell death. Moreover, with the exception of VIP interneurons, this occurs in a manner that is activity-dependent. In addition, we demonstrate that, within interneurons, Calcineurin, a calcium-dependent protein phosphatase, plays a critical role in sequentially linking activity to maturation (E15-P5) and survival (P5-P20). Specifically, embryonic inactivation of Calcineurin results in a failure of interneurons to morphologically mature and prevents them from undergoing apoptosis. By contrast, early postnatal inactivation of Calcineurin increases apoptosis. We conclude that Calcineurin serves a dual role of promoting first the differentiation of interneurons and, subsequently, their survival.
Keywords: Calcineurin; cell death; cortical interneurons; development; maturation; neuronal activity.
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