EphA family gene expression in the developing mouse neocortex: Regional patterns reveal intrinsic programs and extrinsic influence

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Abstract

Parcellation of the mammalian cerebral cortex into distinct areas is essential for proper cortical function; however, the developmental program that results in the genesis of distinct areas is not fully understood. We examined the expression of members of the EphA family—the EphA receptor tyrosine kinases and the ephrin-A ligands—within the developing mouse cerebral cortex, with the aim of characterizing this component of the molecular landscape during cortical parcellation. We found that specific embryonic zones, such as the ventricular, subventricular, intermediate, subplate, and marginal zones, as well as the cortical plate, were positive for particular EphA genes early in corticogenesis (E12–E15). Along with this zone-selective expression, several genes (EphA3, EphA4, EphA5) were evenly expressed along the axes of the developing cortex, whereas one family member (EphA7) was expressed in a distinct anteroposterior pattern. Later in corticogenesis (E16–E18), other EphA family members became selectively expressed, but only within the cortical plate: EphA6 was present posteriorly, and ephrin-A5 was expressed within a middle region. At birth, patterning of EphA gene expression was striking. Thus, we found that the expression of a single EphA gene or a combination of family members can define distinct embryonic zones and anteroposterior regions of the neocortex during development. To examine whether cellular context affects the patterning of EphA expression, we examined gene expression in embryonic cortical cells grown in vitro, such that all cellular contacts are lacking, and in Mash-1 mutant mice, in which thalamocortical connections do not form. We found that the expression patterns of most EphA family members remained stable in these scenarios, whereas the pattern of ephrin-A5 was altered. Taken together, this work provides a comprehensive picture of EphA family expression during mouse corticogenesis and demonstrates that most EphA expression profiles are cell intrinsically based, whereas ephrin-A5 is plastically regulated. J. Comp. Neurol. 456:203–216, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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