The cerebral cortex contains multiple hierarchically organised areas with distinctive cytoarchitectonical patterns, but the cellular mechanisms underlying the emergence of this diversity remain unclear.
Colleagues in the CDN including Alfredo Llorca, Fong Kuan Wong and the Meyer and Marín labs, along with colleagues from labs in Austria, Germany and Sussex, have just published a paper in eLife unravelling some of this mystery.
The authors have quantitatively investigated the neuronal outcome of cortical progenitors in the murine developing cortex using a combination of methods, that together, circumvent the biases and limitations of individual approaches.
Their intriguing results indicate that the output of single progenitors is extremely heterogeneous in both the number and the cell identities contained. Mathematical modelling indicated that these results are compatible with a stochastic model of cortical neurogenesis in which cortical progenitors undergo a series of probabilistic decisions, leading to the specification of very diverse progenies. Stochastic models best reproduce the experimental data when modelling a small, but plural, number of progenitor identities following different programs.
The findings from this paper support a novel mechanism for cortical neurogenesis, whose flexibility makes it capable of generating the diverse cytoarchitectures that characterise cortical areas.