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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Molecular controls over neocortical neuronal diversity and oligodendrocyte development
by Abdel-Azim, Eiman, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2010, 366; 3395405
Abstract (Summary)

Much of the remarkable processing capacity of the neocortex lies in the precisely orchestrated generation of diverse neuronal subtypes. Heterogeneous glial populations must subsequently be generated to ensure that neurons function and communicate appropriately. An emerging understanding of neocortical development has revealed at least two major molecular transitions that establish neuronal and glial heterogeneity. The first involves the spatial molecular parcellation of dorsal (pallial) progenitors that generate excitatory long-distance cortical projection neurons, from ventral (subpallial) progenitors that generate inhibitory locally-projecting cortical interneurons. Postmitotic molecular programs that also differ between pallial and subpallial domains then ensure that neurons differentiate appropriately. The second transition involves the temporal parcellation of early molecular regulators that drive neurogenesis from later regulators that drive gliogenesis within the same proliferative domains.

While much progress has been made in characterizing broad aspects of forebrain development, many of the molecular controls responsible for precisely generating distinct neuronal subtypes and their glial counterparts remain unknown.

In this dissertation, I characterize multiple functions of the highly related transcriptional regulators SOX6 and SOX5 during neocortical progenitor, excitatory neuron, inhibitory neuron, and oligodendrocyte development. In striking contrast to their overlapping expression and functions in other systems, in the forebrain, SOX6 and SOX5 are mutually exclusively expressed with distinct, complementary functions. Using loss- and gain-of-function, molecular, morphological, anatomical, and microarray analyses, I found that: (1) SOX6 controls the dorsal identity of pallial progenitors by repressing subpallial molecular programs; (2) SOX5 postmitotically regulates the sequential generation of distinct excitatory projection neuron subtypes, ensuring cortical projection neuron diversity. Relatedly, I found that the molecular identity of cortical neuron subtypes is only gradually refined, indicating that postmitotic regulators such as SOX5 are essential to execute appropriate subtype differentiation; (3) SOX6 functions postmitotically in the parallel population of inhibitory cortical interneurons, controlling their differentiation and subtype diversity; and (4) SOX6 regulates myelinating oligodendrocyte development, in part by repressing neurogenic cues after the transition to oligodendrogliogenesis.

Taken together, these analyses demonstrate multiple complementary functions of SOX6 and SOX5 across distinct neural cell types, revealing the parsimonious use of transcriptional regulators in diverse contexts during neocortical development and evolution.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Macklis, Jeffrey D.
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-B 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Neurosciences
Keywords: Interneurons, Neocortex, Neuronal diversity, Oligodendrocytes
Publication Number: 3395405
ISBN: 978-1-109-63611-6
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