Spinal cord neuroepithelial progenitor cells display developmental plasticity when co-cultured with embryonic spinal cord slices at different stages of development


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All neurons and glial cells of the vertebrate CNS are derived from embryonic neuroepithelial progenitor cells (NEP). Distinct modes of radial neuronal migration, locomotion, and somal translocation have been described in the cerebral cortex, but less is known about the migratory behavior of neuroepithelial cells and their neuronal and glial descendants in the developing spinal cord. Here a novel spinal cord slice co-culture was developed to investigate the migration and differentiation potential of NEPs in the developing spinal cord. E12 NEPs from eGFP transgenic mouse cells were co-cultured with E12, E14, E16, and E18 organotypic spinal cord slices. Time-lapse confocal microscopy and quantitative 3D image analysis revealed that the co-cultured E12 eGFP NEP cells differentiated at a faster rate with increasing age of embryonic spinal cord slice but migrated further in younger slices. Furthermore, it revealed fast tangentially migrating cells and slower radially migrating cells undergoing locomotion and somal translocation. The ability of NEP cells to alter their migration and differentiation within embryonic microenvironments of different ages highlights their developmental plasticity and ability to respond to temporally expressed extrinsic signals. Developmental Dynamics 240:785–795, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.