Radial glial cells play at least two crucial roles in cortical development: neuronal production in the ventricular zone (VZ) and the subsequent guidance of neuronal migration. There is evidence that radial glia-like cells are present not only during development but in the adult mammalian brain as well. In addition, radial glial cells appear to be neurogenic in the central nervous system of a number of vertebrate species. We demonstrate here that most dividing progenitor cells in the embryonic human VZ express radial glial proteins. Furthermore, we provide evidence that radial glial cells maintain a vimentin-positive radial fiber throughout each stage of cell division. Asymmetric inheritance of this fiber may be an important factor in determining how neuronal progeny will migrate into the developing cortical plate. Although radial glial cells have traditionally been characterized by their role in guiding migration, their role as neuronal progenitors may represent their defining characteristic throughout the vertebrate CNS.
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