Dividing precursor cells of the embryonic cortical ventricular zone have morphological and molecular characteristics of radial glia

Stephen C Noctor, Alexander C. Flint, Tamily A. Weissman, Winston S. Wong, Brian K. Clinton, Arnold R. Kriegstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

482 Scopus citations


The embryonic ventricular zone (VZ) of the cerebral cortex contains migrating neurons, radial glial cells, and a large population of cycling progenitor cells that generate newborn neurons. The latter two cell classes have been assumed for some time to be distinct in both function and anatomy, but the cellular anatomy of the progenitor cell type has remained poorly defined. Several recent reports have raised doubts about the distinction between radial glial and precursor cells by demonstrating that radial glial cells are themselves neuronal progenitor cells (Malatesta et al., 2000; Hartfuss et al., 2001; Miyata et al., 2001; Noctor et al., 2001). This discovery raises the possibility that radial glia and the population of VZ progenitor cells may be one anatomical and functional cell class. Such a hypothesis predicts that throughout neurogenesis almost all mitotically active VZ cells and a substantial percentage of VZ cells overall are radial glia. We have therefore used various anatomical, immunohistochemical, and electrophysiological techniques to test these predictions. Our data demonstrate that the majority of VZ cells, and nearly all mitotically active VZ cells during neurogenesis, both have radial glial morphology and express radial glial markers. In addition, intracellular dye filling of electrophysiologically characterized progenitor cells in the VZ demonstrates that these cells have the morphology of radial glia. Because the vast majority cycling cells in the cortical VZ have characteristics of radial glia, the radial glial precursor cell may be responsible for both the production of newborn neurons and the guidance of daughter neurons to their destinations in the developing cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3161-3173
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell cycle
  • Cortex
  • Development
  • Electrophysiology
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuronal precursor
  • Radial glia
  • Ventricular zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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