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Brain Res. 2010 Nov 18;1361:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.09.030. Epub 2010 Sep 16.

Genetic labeling of both the axons of transduced, glutamatergic neurons in rat postrhinal cortex and their postsynaptic neurons in other neocortical areas by herpes simplex virus vectors that coexpress an axon-targeted β-galactosidase and wheat germ agglutinin from a vesicular glutamate transporter-1 promoter.

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Department of Neurology, West Roxbury VA Hospital/Harvard Medical School, W Roxbury, MA 02132, USA.


Neuronal circuits comprise the foundation for neuronal physiology and synaptic plasticity, and thus for consequent behaviors and learning, but our knowledge of neocortical circuits is incomplete. Mapping neocortical circuits is a challenging problem because these circuits contain large numbers of neurons, a high density of synapses, and numerous classes and subclasses of neurons that form many different types of synapses. Expression of specific genetic tracers in small numbers of specific subclasses of neocortical neurons has the potential to map neocortical circuits. Suitable genetic tracers have been established in neurons in subcortical areas, but application to neocortical circuits has been limited. Enabling this approach, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1) plasmid (amplicon) vectors can transduce small numbers of neurons in a specific neocortical area. Further, expression of a particular genetic tracer can be restricted to specific subclasses of neurons; in particular, the vesicular glutamate transporter-1 (VGLUT1) promoter supports expression in VGLUT1-containing glutamatergic neurons in rat postrhinal (POR) cortex. Here, we show that expression of an axon-targeted β-galactosidase (β-gal) from such vectors supports mapping specific commissural and associative projections of the transduced neurons in POR cortex. Further, coexpression of wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) and an axon-targeted β-gal supports mapping both specific projections of the transduced neurons and identifying specific postsynaptic neurons for the transduced neurons. The neocortical circuit mapping capabilities developed here may support mapping specific neocortical circuits that have critical roles in cognitive learning.

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