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'Chatty' Cells Help Build The Brain, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 30, 2014 05:24 PM EST

Researchers have discovered how feedback between cells, as well as molecular factors, helps shape cortical development during mouse embryogenesis, according to a new study. 

Cortex consists of layers of interconnecting cells that are produced in a particular order from progenitor cells. The cell-sparse outer layer is formed first and then the dense deep layer, and at last the tightly packed upper layer. 

Researchers were interested in discovering exactly how the various layers form, therefore they created a mouse model. The model enabled them to control the expression of a particular protein, Foxg1, known to be involved in cortical development.

The Foxg1 gene, if switched on toward the end of embryogenesis after the outer layer of neurons has formed, triggers the production of deep-layer neurons, followed by upper-layer neurons (Fig. 1). The researchers found that it does this by repressing the activity of another gene, called Tbr1, in the outer-layer neurons, the press release added.

 "Before this study, there was no evidence for any feedback between post-mitotic neurons and progenitors," said lead researcher Carina Hanashima from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in the press release, "but we've shown that the two cell types do communicate."

The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.  

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