Neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation in the postnatal frontal cortex in Down syndrome

Emma C. Utagawa, David G. Moreno, Kristian T Schafernak, Nicoleta C. Arva, Michael H. Malek-Ahmadi, Elliott J. Mufson, Sylvia E. Perez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Although Down syndrome (DS), the most common developmental genetic cause of intellectual disability, displays proliferation and migration deficits in the prenatal frontal cortex (FC), a knowledge gap exists on the effects of trisomy 21 upon postnatal cortical development. Here, we examined cortical neurogenesis and differentiation in the FC supragranular (SG, II/III) and infragranular (IG, V/VI) layers applying antibodies to doublecortin (DCX), non-phosphorylated heavy-molecular neurofilament protein (NHF, SMI-32), calbindin D-28K (Calb), calretinin (Calr), and parvalbumin (Parv), as well as β-amyloid (APP/Aβ and Aβ1–42) and phospho-tau (CP13 and PHF-1) in autopsy tissue from age-matched DS and neurotypical (NTD) subjects ranging from 28-weeks (wk)-gestation to 3 years of age. Thionin, which stains Nissl substance, revealed disorganized cortical cellular lamination including a delayed appearance of pyramidal cells until 44 wk of age in DS compared to 28 wk in NTD. SG and IG DCX-immunoreactive (-ir) cells were only visualized in the youngest cases until 83 wk in NTD and 57 wk DS. Strong SMI-32 immunoreactivity was observed in layers III and V pyramidal cells in the oldest NTD and DS cases with few appearing as early as 28 wk of age in layer V in NTD. Small Calb-ir interneurons were seen in younger NTD and DS cases compared to Calb-ir pyramidal cells in older subjects. Overall, a greater number of Calb-ir cells were detected in NTD, however, the number of Calr-ir cells were comparable between groups. Diffuse APP/Aβ immunoreactivity was found at all ages in both groups. Few young cases from both groups presented non-neuronal granular CP13 immunoreactivity in layer I. Stronger correlations between brain weight, age, thionin, DCX, and SMI-32 counts were found in NTD. These findings suggest that trisomy 21 affects postnatal FC lamination, neuronal migration/neurogenesis and differentiation of projection neurons and interneurons that likely contribute to cognitive impairment in DS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number86
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Calcium binding proteins
  • Down syndrome
  • Frontal cortex
  • Neuronal maturation
  • Postnatal development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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