Dual lineage origins of neocortical astrocytes

Jiafeng Zhou, Ilaria Vitali, Sergi Roig-Puiggros, Awais Javed, Denis Jabaudon, Christian Mayer, Riccardo Bocchi
bioRxiv (2023)


Astrocytes represent one of the most abundant cell types in the central nervous system, and play an essential role in nearly all aspects of brain functions1. Recent studies have challenged the notion that cortical astrocytes are a uniform population, and have highlighted their diverse characteristics at the morphological, molecular, and functional levels25. However, how this diversity originates and establishes during cortical development, remains largely unknown. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we identified five distinct astrocyte subtypes displaying unique spatial patterns in the mouse neocortex, and discovered essential regulators for their formation. Furthermore, we used TrackerSeq6, a method that integrates heritable DNA barcodes into the genome of electroporated progenitors, to track clonally related astrocytes, and identified two distinct lineages that give rise to the five astrocyte subtypes. The first lineage derives from Emx1+ multipotent progenitors that first generate neurons and then switch to produce cortical astrocytes. The second lineage stems from a fate-restricted progenitor population that exclusively gives rise to a specific subset of cortical astrocytes, marked by Olig2. The knockout of this gene in cortical progenitors is sufficient to promote a fate switch between the two lineages. These findings offer novel insights into the cellular mechanisms underlying astrocyte diversity, highlighting the presence of multiple progenitor subtypes, responsible for generating distinct subtypes of astrocytes.