Cortical progenitor biology: key features mediating proliferation versus differentiation

J Neurochem. 2018 Sep;146(5):500-525. doi: 10.1111/jnc.14338. Epub 2018 Jun 27.


The cerebral cortex is a highly organized structure whose development depends on diverse progenitor cell types, namely apical radial glia, intermediate progenitors, and basal radial glia cells, which are responsible for the production of the correct neuronal output. In recent years, these progenitor cell types have been deeply studied, particularly basal radial glia and their role in cortical expansion and gyrification. We review here a broad series of factors that regulate progenitor behavior and daughter cell fate. We first describe the different neuronal progenitor types, emphasizing the differences between lissencephalic and gyrencephalic species. We then review key factors shown to influence progenitor proliferation versus differentiation, discussing their roles in progenitor dynamics, neuronal production, and potentially brain size and complexity. Although spindle orientation has been considered a critical factor for mode of division and daughter cell output, we discuss other features that are emerging as crucial for these processes such as organelle and cell cycle dynamics. Additionally, we highlight the importance of adhesion molecules and the polarity complex for correct cortical development. Finally, we briefly discuss studies assessing progenitor multipotency and its possible contribution to the production of specific neuronal populations. This review hence summarizes recent aspects of cortical progenitor cell biology, and pinpoints emerging features critical for their behavior.

Keywords: asymmetric); cell division (symmetric; cerebral cortex evolution; cortical neurogenesis; mouse mutant; neurodevelopment; progenitor cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Stem Cells / physiology*