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In Vivo Targeting of Neural Progenitor Cells in Ferret Neocortex by In Utero Electroporation

Presented here is a protocol to perform genetic manipulation in the embryonic ferret brain using in utero electroporation. This method allows for targeting of neural progenitor cells in the neocortex in vivo.


  • Kalebic N.,
  • Langen B.,
  • Helppi J.,
  • Kawasaki H.,
  • Huttner W. B.

Research institutes:

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Human Technopole, Landesdirektion Sachsen, Department of Medical Neuroscience, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kanazawa University


Manipulation of gene expression in vivo during embryonic development is the method of choice when analyzing the role of individual genes during mammalian development. In utero electroporation is a key technique for the manipulation of gene expression in the embryonic mammalian brain in vivo. A protocol for in utero electroporation of the embryonic neocortex of ferrets, a small carnivore, is presented here. The ferret is increasingly being used as a model for neocortex development, because its neocortex exhibits a series of anatomical, histological, cellular, and molecular features that are also present in human and nonhuman primates, but absent in rodent models, such as mouse or rat. In utero electroporation was performed at embryonic day (E) 33, a midneurogenesis stage in ferret. In utero electroporation targets neural progenitor cells lining the lateral ventricles of the brain. During neurogenesis, these progenitor cells give rise to all other neural cell types. This work shows representative results and analyses at E37, postnatal day (P) 1, and P16, corresponding to 4, 9, and 24 days after in utero electroporation, respectively. At earlier stages, the progeny of targeted cells consists mainly of various neural progenitor subtypes, whereas at later stages most labeled cells are postmitotic neurons. Thus, in utero electroporation enables the study of the effect of genetic manipulation on the cellular and molecular features of various types of neural cells. Through its effect on various cell populations, in utero electroporation can also be used for the manipulation of histological and anatomical features of the ferret neocortex. Importantly, all these effects are acute and are performed with a spatiotemporal specificity determined by the user.

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