During mammalian neocortex development, nascent pyramidal neurons migrate along radial glial cells and overtake earlier-born neurons to terminate at the front of the developing cortical plate (CP), leading to the outward expansion of the CP border. While much has been learned about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the migration of pyramidal neurons, how migrating neurons bypass the preceding neurons at the end of migration to reach their final positions remains poorly understood. Here, we report that Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (DSCAM) is required for migrating neurons to bypass their post-migratory predecessors during the expansion of the upper cortical layers. DSCAM is a type I transmembrane cell adhesion molecule. It has been linked to Down syndrome through its location in the Down syndrome critical region of Chromosome 21 trisomy and to autism spectrum disorders through loss-of-function mutations. Ex vivo time-lapse imaging demonstrates that DSCAM is required for migrating neurons to bypass their post-migratory predecessors, crossing the CP border to expand the upper cortical layers. In DSCAM-deficient cortices, migrating neurons stop prematurely under the CP border, leading to thinner and denser upper cortical layers. We further show that DSCAM weakens cell adhesion mediated by N-cadherin in the upper cortical plate, allowing migrating neurons to traverse the CP border and expand the CP. These findings suggest that DSCAM is required for proper migratory termination and final positioning of nascent pyramidal neurons, which may provide insight into brain disorders that exhibit thinner upper layers of the cerebral cortex without neuronal loss.

Link to the full article here!