Graded and areal expression patterns of regulatory genes and cadherins in embryonic neocortex independent of thalamocortical input.
The differentiation of areas of the mammalian neocortex has been hypothesized to be controlled by intrinsic genetic programs and extrinsic influences such as those mediated by thalamocortical afferents (TCAs). To address the interplay between these intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms in the process of arealization, we have analyzed the requirement of TCAs in establishing or maintaining graded or areal patterns of gene expression in the developing mouse neocortex. We describe the differential expression of Lhx2, SCIP, and Emx1, representatives of three different classes of transcription factors, and the type II classical cadherins Cad6, Cad8, and Cad11, which are expressed in graded or areal patterns, as well as layer-specific patterns, in the cortical plate. The differential expression of Lhx2, SCIP, Emx1, and Cad8 in the cortical plate is not evident until after TCAs reach the cortex, whereas Cad6 and Cad11 show subtle graded patterns of expression before the arrival of TCAs, which later become stronger. We find that these genes exhibit normal-appearing graded or areal expression patterns in Mash-1 mutant mice that fail to develop a TCA projection. These findings show that TCAs are not required for the establishment or maintenance of the graded and areal expression patterns of these genes and strongly suggest that their regulation is intrinsic to the developing neocortex.DOI: