Neurons of the neocortex are generated by stem cells called radial glial cells. These polarized cells extend a short apical process toward the ventricular surface and a long basal fiber that acts as a scaffold for neuronal migration. How the microtubule cytoskeleton is organized in these cells to support long-range transport is unknown. Using subcellular live imaging within brain tissue, we show that microtubules in the apical process uniformly emanate for the pericentrosomal region, while microtubules in the basal fiber display a mixed polarity, reminiscent of the mammalian dendrite. We identify acentrosomal microtubule organizing centers localized in varicosities of the basal fiber. CAMSAP family members accumulate in these varicosities, where they control microtubule growth. Double knockdown of CAMSAP1 and 2 leads to a destabilization of the entire basal process. Finally, using live imaging of human fetal cortex, we reveal that this organization is conserved in basal radial glial cells, a related progenitor cell population associated with human brain size expansion.

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