Abstract

A hallmark of mammalian brain evolution is the emergence of the neocortex, which has expanded in all mammalian infraclasses (Eutheria, Marsupialia, Monotremata). In eutherians, neocortical neurons derive from distinct neural stem and progenitor cells (NPCs). However, precise data on the presence and abundance of the NPCs, especially of basal radial glia (bRG), in the neocortex of marsupials are lacking. This study characterized and quantified the NPCs in the developing neocortex of a marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). Our data demonstrate that its neocortex is characterized by high NPC diversity. Importantly, we show that bRG exist at high relative abundance in the tammar indicating that this cell type is not specific to the eutherian neocortex and that similar mechanisms may underlie the formation of an expanded neocortex in eutherian and marsupial mammals. We also show that bRG are likely to have been present in the therian ancestor, so did not emerge independently in the eutherian and marsupial lineages. Moreover, our data support the concept that changes in multiple parameters contribute to neocortex expansion and demonstrate the importance of bRG and other NPCs for the development and expansion of the mammalian neocortex.

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