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Corticospinal neuron subpopulation-specific developmental genes prospectively indicate mature segmentally specific axon projection targeting

Journal Article
Vibhu Sahni, Sara J. Shnider, Denis Jabaudon, Yasuhiro Itoh, Luciano C. Greig, Jeffrey D. Macklis
Year Published: 
Cell Reports (2021 Oct 19) Volume 37, Issue 3. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109843.
Full-Text on Cell Report


For precise motor control, distinct subpopulations of corticospinal neurons (CSN) must extend axons to distinct spinal segments, from proximal targets in the brainstem and cervical cord to distal targets in thoracic and lumbar spinal segments. We find that developing CSN subpopulations exhibit striking axon targeting specificity in spinal white matter, which establishes the foundation for durable specificity of adult corticospinal circuitry. Employing developmental retrograde and anterograde labeling, and their distinct neocortical locations, we purified developing CSN subpopulations using fluorescence-activated cell sorting to identify genes differentially expressed between bulbar-cervical and thoracolumbar-projecting CSN subpopulations at critical developmental times. These segmentally distinct CSN subpopulations are molecularly distinct from the earliest stages of axon extension, enabling prospective identification even before eventual axon targeting decisions are evident in the spinal cord. This molecular delineation extends beyond simple spatial separation of these subpopulations in the cortex. Together, these results identify candidate molecular controls over segmentally specific corticospinal axon projection targeting.


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