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Keywords:

  • callosal septa;
  • fetal brain;
  • interhemipheric connectivity;
  • subplate neurons;
  • telencephalic midline

Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the morphology, molecular phenotypes, distribution and developmental history of interstitial neurons in the human corpus callosum, here defined as intracallosal neurons. We analysed 26 fetuses, three newborns, five infants and children, and eight adults [age range – 15 weeks postconception (PCW) to 59 years] by means of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) histochemistry and immunohistochemistry for neuron markers (MAP2, NeuN, NPY, calretinin and calbindin). We found a heterogeneous neuron population, positioned within the callosal trunk itself (aside from neurons present in the transient midline structures such as callosal sling, septa or subcallosal zone), which was most numerous during the second half of gestation and early postnatal years. We named these cells intracallosal neurons. At 15 PCW, the intracallosal neuron population consisted of poorly differentiated, small fusiform or bipolar, migratory-like MAP2- or calretinin-positive neurons which could be observed until mid-gestation. Later the population comprised morphologically diverse, predominantly well-differentiated MAP2-, NPY-, calbindin- and AChE-positive neurons. The morphological differentiation of intracallosal neurons culminated in the newborns and remained pronounced in infants and children. In the adult brain, the intracallosal neurons were found only sporadically, with small somata and poorly stained dendrites. Thus, intracallosal neurons form part of a transitory neuron population with a developmental peak contemporaneous to the critical period of callosal formation. Therefore, they may be involved in processes such as axon guiding or elongation, withdrawal of exuberant axons, fasciculation, or functional tuning, which occur at that time.