Expression of Foxp2, a gene involved in speech and language, in the developing and adult striatum



Many members of the forkhead/winged helix transcriptional factors are known to be regulators of embryogenesis. Mutations of the Fox gene family have been implicated in a range of human developmental disorders. Foxp2, a member of the Fox gene family, has recently been identified as the first gene that is linked to an inherited form of language and speech disorder. To elucidate the anatomical basis of language processing in the brain, we have examined the expression pattern of Foxp2 gene and its homologous gene, Foxp1, in the rat brain through development. Expression of Foxp2 mRNA was detected in the ventral telencephalon as early as embryonic day 13. Foxp2 mRNA was expressed primarily in differentiated cells of the lateral ganglionic eminence (striatal primordium). Of particular interest was that the developmental expression of Foxp2 followed a compartmetnal order in the striatum. Patches containing high levels of Foxp2 were aligned with patches enriched in mu-opoid receptor, a marker for striosomal cells, in the striatum through postnatal development. Conversely, Foxp2-positive patches were devoid of calbindin-D28k, a maker for striatal matrix cells. Therefore, Foxp2 was preferentially expressed in striosomal compartment in the striatum during development. In the mature striatum, Foxp2 expression was maintained in striosomes, although its expression level was reduced. In contrast to Foxp2, Foxp1 was expressed in both the striosomal and matrix compartments in the striatum through development. The striatum is known to be involved in the process of procedural memory, and mutation of Foxp2 results in neurological disorders of language and speech. Given the preferential expression of Foxp2 in the striosomal compartment, the striatum, particularly the striosomal system, may participate in neural information processing for language and speech. Our suggestion is consistent with the declarative/procedural model proposed by Ullman and colleagues (Ullman et al. [1997] J. Cogn. Neurosci. 9:266–276; Ullman [2001] Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 2:717–726), in which the procedural memory-dependent mental grammar is rooted in the basal ganglia and the frontal cortex and the declarative memory-dependent mental lexicon is rooted in the temporal lobe. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.