During the development of the neocortex, cell proliferation occurs in two specialized zones adjacent to the lateral ventricle. One of these zones, the ventricular zone, produces most of the neurons of the neocortex. The proliferating population that resides in the ventricular zone is a pseudostratified ventricular epithelium (PVE) that looks uniform in routine histological preparations, but is, in fact, an active and dynamically changing population. In the mouse, over the course of a 6-day period, the PVE produces approximately 95% of the neurons of the adult neocortex. During this time, the cell cycle of the PVE population lengthens from about 8 h to over 18 h and the progenitor population passes through a total of 11 cell cycles. This 6-day, 11-cell cycle period comprises the "neuronogenetic interval" (NI). At each passage through the cell cycle, the proportion of daughter cells that exit the cell cycle (Q cells) increases from 0 at the onset of the NI to 1 at the end of the NI. The proportion of daughter cells that re-enter the cell cycle (P cells) changes in a complementary fashion from 1 at the onset of the NI to 0 at the end of the NI. This set of systematic changes in the cell cycle and the output from the proliferative population of the PVE allows a quantitative and mathematical treatment of the expansion of the PVE and the growth of the cortical plate that nicely accounts for the observed expansion and growth of the developing neocortex. In addition, we show that the cells produced during a 2-h window of development during specific cell cycles reside in a specific set of laminae in the adult cortex, but that the distributions of the output from consecutive cell cycles overlap. These dynamic events occur in all areas of the PVE underlying the neocortex, but there is a gradient of maturation that begins in the rostrolateral neocortex near the striatotelencephalic junction and which spreads across the surface of the neocortex over a period of 24-36 h. The presence of the gradient across the hemisphere is a possible source of positional information that could be exploited during development to establish the areal borders that characterize the adult neocortex.
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