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J Comp Neurol. 2011 Feb 15;519(3):544-61. doi: 10.1002/cne.22532.

Region-specific gene expression in early postnatal mouse thalamus.

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RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama, Japan.


Previous studies in the developing mouse thalamus have demonstrated that regional identity is established during early stages of development (Suzuki-Hirano et al. J. Comp. Neurol. 2011;519:528-543). However, the developing thalamus often shows little resemblance to the anatomical organization of the postnatal thalamus, making it difficult to identify genes that might mediate the organization of thalamic nuclei. We therefore analyzed the expression pattern of genes that we have identified as showing regional expression in embryonic thalamus on postnatal days (P) 6-8 by using in situ hybridization. We also identified several genes expressed only in the postnatal thalamus with restricted expression in specific nuclei. We first demonstrated the selective expression of neurotransmitter-related genes (vGlut2, vGAT, D2R, and HTR2C), identifying the neurotransmitter subtypes of cells in this region, and we also demonstrated selective expression of additional genes in the thalamus (Steel, Slitrk6, and AI852580). In addition, we demonstrated expression of genes specific to somatosensory thalamic nuclei, the ventrobasal posterior nuclei (VP); a visual thalamic nucleus, the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN); and an auditory thalamic nucleus, the medial geniculate body (MGB) (p57Kip, Nr1d1, and GFRα1). We also identified genes that are selectively expressed in multiple different nuclei (Foxp2, Chst2, and EphA8). Finally, we demonstrated that several bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and their inhibitors are expressed in the postnatal thalamus in a nucleus-specific fashion, suggesting that BMPs play roles in the postnatal thalamus unrelated to their known role in developmental patterning. Our findings provide important information for understanding the mechanisms of nuclear specification and connectivity during development, as well as their maintenance in adult thalamus.

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