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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jun 24;94(13):7030-5.

Membrane-associated molecules regulate the formation of layer-specific cortical circuits.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale Unité 371 'Cerveau et Vision', 69500 Bron, France.


The columnar organization of the mammalian neocortex is based on radially oriented axon collaterals which precisely link cells from distinct cortical layers. During development, these interlaminar connections are specific from their initial outgrowth: collaterals form only in the target layers and there are no transient axonal collaterals in the nontarget layers. To examine whether positional cues within individual cortical layers regulate the laminar specificity of collateral formation, explants of cells destined for different cortical layers were cultured on membranes prepared from target and nontarget layers. Axonal growth and branching were examined on homogeneous membrane substrates and on alternating stripes of membranes from different layers. Results show that axons branch preferentially on membrane substrates from those layers that they would target in vivo. In addition, when cortical axons were given a choice to grow on membranes from either their target or their nontarget layer, they exhibited a clear preference for the target layers. This indicates that membrane-associated cues confined to individual layers regulate the formation of collaterals of cortical axons and restrict their growth to their target layers. Heat inactivation of membranes from target layers resulted in reduced axonal branching. The same manipulation of membranes from nontarget layers increased axonal branching for one population of cortical neurons. Taken together, these results suggest that membrane-associated molecules confined to individual layers induce and prevent the formation of axon collaterals in distinct populations of cortical neurons. Thus, the expression of layer-specific cues provides important constraints for the remodeling of local circuits during cortical development.

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