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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Apr 7;380(2):215-29.

Initial trajectories of sensory axons toward laminar targets in the developing mouse spinal cord.

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Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The formation of laminar-specific projections is a key event in the development of appropriate neuronal connections in many regions of the central nervous system. In order to provide a framework for defining functions of molecules related to spinal laminar targeting of dorsal root ganglion neurons in mice, we have characterized the initial trajectories of sensory axons in relation to the maturation of their target laminae in the spinal cord. We show that morphological and biochemical differentiation of distinct clusters of neurons in the dorsal region of the spinal cord precedes initial collateral branching from sensory axons. Between embryonic day (E) 12.5 and E13.5, sensory axons develop swelling ("nodes") along their entire intraspinal extent and elaborate interstitial collateral branches from these nodes. Collaterals from the different classes of sensory axons then penetrate the gray matter of the spinal cord sequentially. Each class of sensory axons projects directly to its target lamina, never branching into inappropriate laminae en route. Some cutaneous afferents traverse the entire width of the spinal cord to reach superficial laminae on the contralateral side, strictly avoiding both the ventral spinal cord and inappropriate laminae of the deep dorsal horn. The pathways taken by developing sensory afferents are compatible with the idea that cells in inappropriate laminae exert inhibitory influences on sensory axons which regulate their laminar specificity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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