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Birth dating neurons with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) labeling is an established method widely employed by neurobiologists to study cell proliferation in embryonic, postnatal, and adult brain. Birth dating studies in the chick dorsal telencephalon and the mammalian striatum have suggested that these structures develop in a strikingly similar manner, in which neurons with the same birth date aggregate to form "isochronic clusters." Here we show that isochronic cluster formation in the chick dorsal telencephalon is an artifact. In embryos given standardly employed doses of BrdU, we observed isochronic clusters but found that clusters were absent with BrdU doses close to the limits of detection. In addition, in situ hybridization experiments established that neurons in the clusters display errors in cell type specification: BrdU cell clusters in nidopallium adopted a mesopallial neuronal fate, mesopallial clusters were misspecified as nidopallial cells, and in some instances, the BrdU clusters failed to express neuronal differentiation markers characteristic of the dorsal telencephalon. These results demonstrate that the chick dorsal telencephalon does not develop by isochronic cluster formation and highlight the need to test the integrity of BrdU-treated tissue with gene expression markers of regional and cell type identity.


Joanna J Rowell, Clifton W Ragsdale. BrdU birth dating can produce errors in cell fate specification in chick brain development. The journal of histochemistry and cytochemistry : official journal of the Histochemistry Society. 2012 Nov;60(11):801-10

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PMID: 22859704

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