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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Molecular evidence for the early specification of presumptive functional domains in the embryonic primate cerebral cortex.

To identify molecules that may play a role in the initiation of cerebral cortical area formation, we examined the expression of the Eph receptors and their ligands, the ephrins, during primate corticogenesis. We selected the macaque monkey neocortex because of its clear areal subdivisions, large surface area, protracted development (gestation = 165 d), and similarity to the human brain. In situ hybridizations, performed at early [embryonic day 65 (E65)], middle (E80), and late (E95) stages of cortical development, revealed that EphA system family members are expressed in distinct gradients and laminar and areal domains in the embryonic neocortex. Indeed, several regionally restricted molecular patterns are already apparent within the cortical plate at E65, before the formation of thalamocortical connections, suggesting that the initial expression of some EphA system members is regulated by programs intrinsic to cortical cells. For example, EphA3, EphA6, and EphA7 are all selectively expressed within the presumptive visual cortex. However, although EphA6 and EphA7 are present throughout this region, EphA3 is only expressed in the prospective extrastriate cortex, suggesting that cortical cells harbor functional biases that may influence the formation of appropriate synaptic connections. Although several patterns of early gene expression are stable (e.g., EphA3, EphA4, and EphA6), others change as development proceeds (e.g., EphA5, EphA7, ephrin-A2, ephrin-A3, and ephrin-A5), perhaps responding to extrinsic cues. Thus, at E95, after connections between the cortical plate and thalamus have formed, receptor subtypes EphA3, EphA5, EphA6, and EphA7 and the ligand ephrin-A5 are expressed in posterior regions, whereas EphA4 and ephrin-A2 and ephrin-A3 are either uniformly distributed or anteriorly biased. Taken together, our results demonstrate molecular distinctions among cells of the embryonic primate neocortex, revealing hitherto unrecognized compartmentalization early in corticogenesis.[1]


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