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Neuron. 1999 Jan;22(1):33-41.

A genetic approach to visualization of multisynaptic neural pathways using plant lectin transgene.

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  • 1Laboratory for Neurobiology of Synapse, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama, Japan.


The wiring patterns among various types of neurons via specific synaptic connections are the basis of functional logic employed by the brain for information processing. This study introduces a powerful method of analyzing the neuronal connectivity patterns by delivering a tracer selectively to specific types of neurons while simultaneously transsynaptically labeling their target neurons. We developed a novel genetic approach introducing cDNA for a plant lectin, wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), as a transgene under the control of specific promoter elements. Using this method, we demonstrate three examples of visualization of specific transsynaptic neural pathways: the mouse cerebellar efferent pathways, the mouse olfactory pathways, and the Drosophila visual pathways. This strategy should greatly facilitate studies on the anatomical and functional organization of the developing and mature nervous system.

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