Differences and similarities between human and chimpanzee neural progenitors during cerebral cortex development
Human neocortex expansion likely contributed to the remarkable cognitive abilities of humans. This expansion is thought to primarily reflect differences in proliferation versus differentiation of neural progenitors during cortical development. Here, we have searched for such differences by analysing cerebral organoids from human and chimpanzees using immunohistofluorescence, live imaging, and single-cell transcriptomics. We find that the cytoarchitecture, cell type composition, and neurogenic gene expression programs of humans and chimpanzees are remarkably similar. Notably, however, live imaging of apical progenitor mitosis uncovered a lengthening of prometaphase-metaphase in humans compared to chimpanzees that is specific to proliferating progenitors and not observed in non-neural cells. Consistent with this, the small set of genes more highly expressed in human apical progenitors points to increased proliferative capacity, and the proportion of neurogenic basal progenitors is lower in humans. These subtle differences in cortical progenitors between humans and chimpanzees may have consequences for human neocortex evolution.