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Curr Biol. 2001 Jan 9;11(1):39-43.

Independent parcellation of the embryonic visual cortex and thalamus revealed by combinatorial Eph/ephrin gene expression.

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Section of Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


The visual cortex in primates is parcellated into cytoarchitectonically, physiologically, and connectionally distinct areas: the striate cortex (V1) and the extrastriate cortex, consisting of V2 and numerous higher association areas [1]. The innervation of distinct visual cortical areas by the thalamus is especially segregated in primates, such that the lateral geniculate (LG) nucleus specifically innervates striate cortex, whereas pulvinar projections are confined to extrastriate cortex [2--8]. The molecular bases for the parcellation of the visual cortex and thalamus, as well as the establishment of reciprocal connections between distinct compartments within these two structures, are largely unknown. Here, we show that prospective visual cortical areas and corresponding thalamic nuclei in the embryonic rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) can be defined by combinatorial expression of genes encoding Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands, the ephrins, prior to obvious cytoarchitectonic differentiation within the cortical plate and before the establishment of reciprocal connections between the cortical plate and thalamus. These results indicate that molecular patterns of presumptive visual compartments in both the cortex and thalamus can form independently of one another and suggest a role for EphA family members in both compartment formation and axon guidance within the visual thalamocortical system.

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