Aims: Deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC) and its ligand netrin-1 are known as axonal guidance factors, being involved in angiogenesis, migration and survival of precursor cells in the embryonic mammalian central nervous system (CNS). So far, little is known about the distribution of those molecules in human CNS development. Methods: We investigated 22 human foetal brain specimens (12th and 28th week of gestation) for DCC and netrin-1 expression by means of immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence and confocal laser microscopy. Statistical analysis was performed by applying a semi-quantitative score, including staining intensity and frequency and correlation with foetal age. Results: DCC and netrin-1 were differentially expressed throughout the developing human foetal telencephalic and cerebellar cortical layers. Netrin-1 exhibited the highest levels in telencephalic germinal layers, whereas the strongest DCC immunoreactivity was seen in the developing cortical plate. Netrin-1 and DCC were predominantly present on cerebellar external granule layer cells. Distinct co-expression was seen in maturing foetal brainstem nuclei, cerebellar external granular layer and the choroid plexus. In contrast, endothelial cells showed strong netrin-1 expression with subsidiary DCC immunoreactivity. Pontine and telencephalic axonal fibre tracts also demonstrated strong netrin-1 expression. Conclusions: We show that DCC and netrin-1 are ubiquitously expressed in the human foetal brain; however, both exhibit a distinct spatio-temporal expression pattern. Together with the data from animal experiments, our findings might indicate also an important role for DCC and netrin-1 in human foetal CNS development.
- Axon guidance
- Human foetal CNS