Topographical cues control the morphology and dynamics of migrating cortical interneurons

Biomaterials. 2019 Sep:214:119194. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2019.05.005. Epub 2019 May 14.


In mammalian embryos, cortical interneurons travel long distances among complex three-dimensional tissues before integrating into cortical circuits. Several molecular guiding cues involved in this migration process have been identified, but the influence of physical parameters remains poorly understood. In the present study, we have investigated in vitro the influence of the topography of the microenvironment on the migration of primary cortical interneurons released from mouse embryonic explants. We found that arrays of PDMS micro-pillars of 10 μm size and spacing, either round or square, influenced both the morphology and the migratory behavior of interneurons. Strikingly, most interneurons exhibited a single and long leading process oriented along the diagonals of the square pillared array, whereas leading processes of interneurons migrating in-between round pillars were shorter, often branched and oriented in all available directions. Accordingly, dynamic studies revealed that growth cone divisions were twice more frequent in round than in square pillars. Both soma and leading process tips presented forward directed movements within square pillars, contrasting with the erratic trajectories and more dynamic movements observed among round pillars. In support of these observations, long interneurons migrating in square pillars displayed tight bundles of stable microtubules aligned in the direction of migration. Overall, our results show that micron-sized topography provides global spatial constraints promoting the establishment of different morphological and migratory states. Remarkably, these different states belong to the natural range of migratory behaviors of cortical interneurons, highlighting the potential importance of topographical cues in the guidance of these embryonic neurons, and more generally in brain development.

Keywords: Developing brain; Medial ganglionic eminence; Micropatterned substrate; Neuronal migration; PDMS; Videomicroscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / cytology*
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / physiology