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The subplate is a largely transient zone containing precocious neurons involved in several key steps of cortical development. The majority of subplate neurons form a compact layer in mouse, but are dispersed throughout a much larger zone in the human. In rodent, subplate neurons are among the earliest born neocortical cells, whereas in primate, neurons are added to the subplate throughout cortical neurogenesis. Magnetic resonance imaging and histochemical studies show that the human subplate grows in size until the end of the second trimester. Previous microarray experiments in mice have shown several genes that are specifically expressed in the subplate layer of the rodent dorsal cortex. Here we examined the human subplate for some of these markers. In the human dorsal cortex, connective tissue growth factor-positive neurons can be seen in the ventricular zone at 15-22 postconceptional weeks (PCW) (most at 17 PCW) and are present in the subplate at 22 PCW. The nuclear receptor-related 1 protein is mostly expressed in the subplate in the dorsal cortex, but also in lower layer 6 in the lateral and perirhinal cortex, and can be detected from 12 PCW. Our results suggest that connective tissue growth factor- and nuclear receptor-related 1-positive cells are two distinct cell populations of the human subplate. Furthermore, our microarray analysis in rodent suggested that subplate neurons produce plasma proteins. Here we demonstrate that the human subplate also expresses α2zinc-binding globulin and Alpha-2-Heremans-Schmid glycoprotein/human fetuin. In addition, the established subplate neuron marker neuropeptide Y is expressed superficially, whereas potassium/chloride co-transporter (KCC2)-positive neurons are localized in the deep subplate at 16 PCW. These observations imply that the human subplate shares gene expression patterns with rodent, but is more compartmentalized into superficial and deep sublayers. This increased complexity of the human subplate may contribute to differential vulnerability in response to hypoxia/ischaemia across the depth of the cortex. Combining knowledge of cell-type specific subplate gene expression with modern imaging methods will enable a better understanding of neuropathologies involving the subplate.

Original publication




Journal article


J Anat

Publication Date





368 - 380


Adult, Animals, Biomarkers, Blood Proteins, Cerebral Cortex, Connective Tissue Growth Factor, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Mice, Microarray Analysis, Neurons, Neuropeptide Y, Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 2, Symporters, alpha-2-HS-Glycoprotein, alpha-Fetoproteins