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Dev Biol. 1999 Apr 15;208(2):430-40.

Thalamocortical axons are influenced by chemorepellent and chemoattractant activities localized to decision points along their path.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, The Salk Institute, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California, 92037, USA.


Thalamocortical axons (TCAs), which originate in dorsal thalamus, project ventrally in diencephalon and then dorsolaterally in ventral telencephalon to their target, the neocortex. To elucidate potentially key decision points in TCA pathfinding and hence the possible localization of guidance cues, we used DiI-tracing to describe the initial trajectory of TCAs in mice. DiI-labeled TCAs extend ventrally on the lateral surface of ventral thalamus. Rather than continuing this trajectory onto the lateral surface of the hypothalamus, TCAs make a sharp lateral turn into ventral telencephalon. This behavior suggests that the hypothalamus is repulsive and the ventral telencephalon attractive for TCAs. In support of this hypothesis, we find that axon outgrowth from explants of dorsal thalamus is biased away from hypothalamus and toward ventral telencephalon when cocultured at a distance in collagen gels. The in vivo DiI analysis also reveals a broad cluster of retrogradely labeled neurons in the medial part of ventral telencephalon positioned within or adjacent to the thalamocortical pathway prior to or at the time TCAs are extending through it. The axons of these neurons extend into or through dorsal thalamus and appear to be coincident with the oppositely extending TCAs. These findings suggest that multiple cues guide TCAs along their pathway from dorsal thalamus to neocortex: TCAs may fasciculate on the axons of ventral telencephalic neurons as they extend through ventral thalamus and the medial part of ventral telencephalon, and chemorepellent and chemoattractant activities expressed by hypothalamus and ventral telencephalon, respectively, may cooperate to promote the turning of TCAs away from hypothalamus and into ventral telencephalon.

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