The cerebral cortex contains multiple areas with distinctive cytoarchitectonic patterns, but the cellular mechanisms underlying the emergence of this diversity remain unclear. Here, we have investigated the neuronal output of individual progenitor cells in the developing mouse neocortex using a combination of methods that together circumvent the biases and limitations of individual approaches. Our experimental results indicate that progenitor cells generate pyramidal cell lineages with a wide range of sizes and laminar configurations. Mathematical modeling indicates that these outcomes are compatible with a stochastic model of cortical neurogenesis in which progenitor cells undergo a series of probabilistic decisions that lead to the specification of very heterogeneous progenies. Our findings support a mechanism for cortical neurogenesis whose flexibility would make it capable to generate the diverse cytoarchitectures that characterize distinct neocortical areas.
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