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Keywords:

  • cortical areas;
  • corticogenesis;
  • barrel cortex;
  • eph/ephrin

Abstract

Members of the Eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands, the ephrins, are expressed in distinct patterns in the forming cortex. EphA7 is expressed early in cortical development, becoming concentrated in anterior and posterior domains, whereas ephrin-A5 is expressed later in corticogenesis, highest in the middle region that has low levels of EphA7. The EphA7 gene produces full-length and truncated isoforms, which are repulsive and adhesive, respectively. Analysis of cortical RNA expression demonstrates that proportions of these isoforms change with time, from a more repulsive mix during embryogenesis to a more permissive mix postnatally. To examine how EphA7 and ephrin-A5 influence the formation of cortical regions, EphA7−/− mice were analyzed. Within the cortex of EphA7−/− mice, the distribution of ephrin-A5 was more extensive, encompassing its usual medial domain but also extending more posteriorly toward the occipital pole. Moreover, relative levels of ephrin-A5 along the cortex's anatomical axes changed in EphA7−/− animals, creating less striking shifts in ligand abundance. Furthermore, in vivo functional studies revealed that EphA7 exerts a repulsive influence on ephrin-A5-expressing cells during corticogenesis. In contrast, EphA7 appears to mediate permissive interactions in the postnatal cortex: the area of somatosensory cortex was significantly reduced in EphA7−/− mice. A similar reduction was present in ephrin-A5−/− animals and a more pronounced decrease was observed in EphA7/ephrin-A5−/− cortex. Taken together, this study supports a role for EphA7 and ephrin-A5 in the establishment and maintenance of certain cortical domains and suggests that the nature of their interactions changes with cortical maturity. J. Comp. Neurol. 496:627–642, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.