During corticogenesis, neuronal migration is an essential step for formation of a functional brain, and abnormal migration is known to cause various neurological disorders. Neuronal migration is not just a simple movement of the cell body, but a consequence of various morphological changes and coordinated subcellular events. Recent advances in in vivo and ex vivo cell biological approaches, such as in utero gene transfer, slice culture and ex vivo chemical inhibitor techniques, have revealed details of the morphological and molecular aspects of neuronal migration. Migrating neurons have been found to have a unique structure, dilation or swelling, at the proximal region of the leading process; this structure is not found in other migrating cell types. The formation of this structure is followed by nuclear deformation and forward movement, and coordination of this three-step sequential morphological change (the dilation/swelling formation, nuclear elongation and nuclear movement) is essential for proper neuronal migration and the construction of a functional brain structure. In this review, we will introduce the morphological features of this unique structure in migrating neurons and summarize what is known about the molecules regulating the dilation/swelling formation and nuclear deformation and movement.
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