Mitotic spindle orientation distinguishes stem cell and terminal modes of neuron production in the early spinal cord

Arwen C. Wilcock, Jason R. Swedlow, Kate G. Storey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    80 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite great insight into the molecular mechanisms that specify neuronal cell type in the spinal cord, cell behaviour underlying neuron production in this tissue is largely unknown. In other neuroepithelia, divisions with a perpendicular cleavage plane at the apical surface generate symmetrical cell fates, whereas a parallel cleavage plane generates asymmetric daughters, a neuron and a progenitor in a stem cell mode, and has been linked to the acquisition of neuron-generating ability. Using a novel long-term imaging assay, we have monitored single cells in chick spinal cord as they transit mitosis and daughter cells become neurons or divide again. We reveal new morphologies accompanying neuron birth and show that neurons are generated concurrently by asymmetric and terminal symmetric divisions. Strikingly, divisions that generate two progenitors or a progenitor and a neuron both exhibit a wide range of cleavage plane orientations and only divisions that produce two neurons have an exclusively perpendicular orientation. Neuron-generating progenitors are also distinguished by lengthening cell cycle times, a finding supported by cell cycle acceleration on exposure to fibroblast growth factor (FGF), an inhibitor of neuronal differentiation. This study provides a novel, dynamic view of spinal cord neurogenesis and supports a model in which cleavage plane orientation/mitotic spindle position does not assign neuron-generating ability, but functions subsequent to this step to distinguish stem cell and terminal modes of neuron production.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1943-54
    Number of pages12
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2007


    • Animals
    • Cell Differentiation
    • Cell Division
    • Cell Lineage
    • Cell Movement
    • Chick Embryo
    • Fibroblast Growth Factors
    • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
    • Mitosis
    • Neurons
    • Spinal Cord
    • Spindle Apparatus
    • Stem Cells


    Dive into the research topics of 'Mitotic spindle orientation distinguishes stem cell and terminal modes of neuron production in the early spinal cord'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this