In the developing brain, the polarity of neural progenitor cells, termed radial glial cells (RGCs), is important for neurogenesis. Intercellular adhesions, termed apical junctional complexes (AJCs), at the apical surface between RGCs are necessary for cell polarization. However, the mechanism by which AJCs are established remains unclear. Here, we show that a SNARE complex composed of SNAP23, VAMP8, and Syntaxin1B has crucial roles in AJC formation and RGC polarization. Central nervous system (CNS)–specific ablation of SNAP23 (NcKO) results in mice with severe hypoplasia of the neocortex and no hippocampus or cerebellum. In the developing NcKO brain, RGCs lose their polarity following the disruption of AJCs and exhibit reduced proliferation, increased differentiation, and increased apoptosis. SNAP23 and its partner SNAREs, VAMP8 and Syntaxin1B, are important for the localization of an AJC protein, N-cadherin, to the apical plasma membrane of RGCs. Altogether, SNARE-mediated localization of N-cadherin is essential for AJC formation and RGC polarization during brain development.

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