Neuronal migration is the method by which neurons travel from their origin or birth place (i.e. the location of their last cell division) to their final position in the brain. There are several ways they can do this, e.g. by radial migration or tangential migration. In humans, this process is largely completed by the end of the fifth month of gestation.
Neuronal precursor cells proliferate in the ventricular zone of the developing neocortex. The first postmitotic cells to migrate form the preplate which are destined to become Cajal-Retzius cells and subplate neurons. These cells do so by somal translocation. Neurons migrating with this mode of locomotion are bipolar and attachs the leading edge of the process to the pia. The soma is then transported to the pial surface by nucleokinesis, a process by which a microtubule "cage" around the nucleus elongates and contracts in association with the centrosome to guide the nucleus to its final destination. Radial glia, whose fibers serve as a scaffolding for migrating cells, can itself divide or translocate to the cortical plate and differentiate either into astrocytes or neurons. Somal translocation can occur at any time during development.
Subsequent waves of neurons split the preplate by migrating along radial glial fibres to form the cortical plate. Each wave of migrating cells travel past their predecessors forming layers in an inside-out manner, meaning that the youngest neurons are the closest to the surface. It is estimated that glial guided migration represents 90% of migrating neurons in human and about 75% in rodents.
Most interneurons migrate tangentially through multiple modes of migration to reach their appropriate location in the cortex. An example of tangential migration is the movement of Cajal-Retzius cells from the ganglionic eminence to the cerebral cortex. One example of ongoing tangential migration in a mature organism, observed in some animals, is the rostral migratory stream connecting subventricular zone and olfactory bulb.
Other types of neuronal migration
There is also a method of neuronal migration called multipolar migration. This is seen in multipolar cells, which are abundantly present in the cortical intermediate zone. They do not resemble the cells migrating by locomotion or somal translocation. Instead these multipolar cells express neuronal markers and extend multiple thin processes in various directions independently of the radial glial fibers.
- See also time lapse sequences of radial migration (also known as glial guidance) and somal translocation.
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