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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Oct 20;387(2):194-214.

Timecourse of development of the wallaby trigeminal pathway: III. Thalamocortical and corticothalamic projections.

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Developmental Neurobiology Group, RSBS, Australian National University, Canberra.


The development of trigeminal projections between the thalamus and cortex has been investigated in the marsupial mammal, the wallaby, by using a carbocyanine dye, horseradish peroxidase conjugated to wheat germ agglutinin (WGA-HRP), Neurobiotin, and biocytin as pathway tracers. The appearance of whisker-related patterns in the cortex in relation to their appearance in the brainstem and thalamus was examined, as was the presence or absence of a waiting period for thalamocortical afferents and the identity of the first cortical cells to project to the thalamus. Thalamic afferents first reached the cortex at postnatal day (P) 15 and were distributed up to the deep edge of the compact cell zone in the superficial cortical plate throughout development, in both dye and WGA-HRP labelled material, with no evidence of a waiting period. The initial corticothalamic projection, detected by retrograde transport of WGA-HRP from the thalamus, occurred at P60 from layer 5 cells. This was confirmed by labelling of corticothalamic axons after cortical injections of Neurobiotin and biocytin. Scattered, labelled cells seen before P60 after dye labelling from the thalamus presumably resulted from transcellular labelling via thalamic afferents. Clustering of afferents in layer 4 and cell bodies and their dendrites in layers 5 and 6 first occurred simultaneously at P76. There is a sequential onset of pattern formation, first in brainstem, then in thalamus, and finally in cortex, with a long delay between afferent arrival and pattern formation at each level. Independent regulation at each level, likely depending on target maturation, is suggested.

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