Somatic mosaicism reveals clonal distributions of neocortical development


Breuss MW, Yang X, Schlachetzki JCM, Antaki D, Lana AJ, Xu X, Chung C, Chai G, Stanley V, Song Q, Newmeyer TF, Nguyen A, O'Brien S, Hoeksema MA, Cao B, Nott A, McEvoy-Venneri J, Pasillas MP, Barton ST, Copeland BR, Nahas S, Van Der Kraan L, Ding Y, Glass CK, Gleeson JG. Somatic mosaicism reveals clonal distributions of neocortical development. Nature 2022;604(7907):689-696. Copy at

Date Published:

2022 04


The structure of the human neocortex underlies species-specific traits and reflects intricate developmental programs. Here we sought to reconstruct processes that occur during early development by sampling adult human tissues. We analysed neocortical clones in a post-mortem human brain through a comprehensive assessment of brain somatic mosaicism, acting as neutral lineage recorders1,2. We combined the sampling of 25 distinct anatomic locations with deep whole-genome sequencing in a neurotypical deceased individual and confirmed results with 5 samples collected from each of three additional donors. We identified 259 bona fide mosaic variants from the index case, then deconvolved distinct geographical, cell-type and clade organizations across the brain and other organs. We found that clones derived after the accumulation of 90-200 progenitors in the cerebral cortex tended to respect the midline axis, well before the anterior-posterior or ventral-dorsal axes, representing a secondary hierarchy following the overall patterning of forebrain and hindbrain domains. Clones across neocortically derived cells were consistent with a dual origin from both dorsal and ventral cellular populations, similar to rodents, whereas the microglia lineage appeared distinct from other resident brain cells. Our data provide a comprehensive analysis of brain somatic mosaicism across the neocortex and demonstrate cellular origins and progenitor distribution patterns within the human brain.