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Development of the principal nucleus trigeminal lemniscal projections in the mouse



The principal sensory (PrV) nucleus-based trigeminal lemniscus conveys whisker-specific neural patterns to the ventroposteromedial (VPM) nucleus of the thalamus and subsequently to the primary somatosensory cortex. Here we examined the perinatal development of this pathway with carbocyanine dye labeling in embryonic and early postnatal mouse brains. We developed a novel preparation in which the embryonic hindbrain and the diencephalon are flattened out, allowing a birds-eye view of the PrV lemniscus in its entirety. For postnatal brains we used another novel approach by sectioning the brain along an empirically determined oblique horizontal angle, again preserving the trigeminothalamic pathway. PrV neurons are born along the hindbrain ventricular zone and migrate radially for a short distance to coalesce into a nucleus adjacent to the ascending trigeminal tract. During migration of the spindle-shaped cell bodies, slender axonal processes grow along the opposite direction towards the floor plate. As early as embryonic day (E) 11, pioneering axons tipped with large growth cones cross the ventral midline and immediately make a right angle turn. By E13 many PrV axons form fascicles crossing the midline and follow a rostral course. PrV axons reach the midbrain by E15 and the thalamus by E17. While the target recognition and invasion occurs prenatally, organization of PrV axon terminals into whisker-specific rows and patches takes place during the first 4 postnatal (P) days. Initially diffuse and exuberant projections in the VPM at P1 coalesce into row and whisker specific terminal zones by P4. J. Comp. Neurol. 521:299–311, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.