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Aspects of early postnatal development of cortical neurons that proceed independently of normally present extrinsic influences.

  • Author(s): Annis, Casey M
  • Robertson, Richard T
  • O'Dowd, Diane K
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

To examine the contribution of local versus extrinsic influences on postnatal development of cortical neurons, we compared the maturation of deep (infragranular) layer neurons in isolated slices of neocortex grown in organotypic culture to a similar population of neurons developing in vivo. All slice cultures were prepared from sensorimotor cortices of newborn mice (P0) and neurons in these cultures were examined at daily intervals during the first 9 days in vitro (DIV). The maturational state of neurons developing in vivo over this same time period was assessed in acute slices prepared from animals of equivalent postnatal age, P1-P9. Electrophysiological recordings were obtained from neurons in both cultured and acute slices, using Lucifer yellow filled whole-cell recording electrodes, enabling subsequent morphometric analysis of the labeled cells. We report significant changes in both cellular morphology and electrical membrane properties of these deep layer cortical neurons during the first week in culture. Morphological maturation over this time period was characterized by a two- to three-fold increase in cell body size and total process length, and an increase in dendritic complexity. In this same population of cells a three-fold decrease in input resistance and changes in the action potential waveform, including a two-fold decrease in the AP duration, also occur. The degree of morphological and electrophysiological differentiation of individual neurons was highly correlated across developmental ages, suggesting that the maturational state of a cell is reflected in both cellular morphology and intrinsic membrane properties. A remarkably similar pattern of neuronal maturation was observed in neurons in layers V, VI/SP examined in acute slices prepared from animals between P1-P9. Because our culture system preserves many aspects of the local cortical environment while eliminating normal extrinsic influences (including thalamic, brainstem, and callosal connections), our findings argue that this early phase of neuronal differentiation, including the rate and extent of dendritic growth and development of AP waveform, results from instructive and/or permissive local influences, and appears to proceed independently of the many normally present extrinsic factors.

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