Three cell forms of astroglial lineage populate the prenatal and early postnatal murine cerebral wall. In the present review we consider the ontogeny of these cell forms with respect to histogenetic events of the perinatal period. Classic bipolar radial glial cells predominate prior to E17. The bipolar coexist with monopolar radial forms in the perinatal period. Both bipolar and monopolar radial forms coexist with multipolar astrocytes in the course of the first postnatal week and are ultimately succeeded by the multipolar cells. The shift from bipolar to monopolar radial forms is initially coincident with translocation of somata of bipolar cells from the ventricular zone to the upper intermediate zone and cortical strata. Arborization appears to occur both at the growing tips and along the shaft of the processes of both bipolar and monopolar radial cell types. As arborization continues, the processes of the monopolar radial cells come to resemble those of the multipolar astrocytes. Eventually the radial cells are fully transformed into the multipolar astrocytic forms. During this period of transition, radial processes in the cortex appear to be degenerating, suggesting that regressive processes contribute to the cytologic transformation. This sequence of transformations begins late in the period of neuronal migration and continues through the early stages of growth and differentiation in the murine cerebral cortex. The signals that induce these changes may arise from differentiating neurons within the cortex. These transformations occur at a time when radial glial fibers are no longer required as guides for neuronal migration, and the glial population assumes new roles related to the development and operation of cortical neuronal circuits.
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