Bibollet-Bahena O, Okafuji T, Hokamp K, Tear G, Mitchell KJ
(2017) A dual-strategy expression screen for candidate connectivity labels in the developing thalamus. PLoS One
The thalamus or "inner chamber" of the brain is divided into ~30 discrete nuclei, with highly specific patterns of afferent and efferent connectivity. To identify genes that may direct these patterns of connectivity, we used two strategies. First, we used a bioinformatics pipeline to survey the predicted proteomes of nematode, fruitfly, mouse and human for extracellular proteins containing any of a list of motifs found in known guidance or connectivity molecules. Second, we performed clustering analyses on the Allen Developing Mouse Brain Atlas data to identify genes encoding surface proteins expressed with temporal profiles similar to known guidance or connectivity molecules. In both cases, we then screened the resultant genes for selective expression patterns in the developing thalamus. These approaches identified 82 candidate connectivity labels in the developing thalamus. These molecules include many members of the Ephrin, Eph-receptor, cadherin, protocadherin, semaphorin, plexin, Odz/teneurin, Neto, cerebellin, calsyntenin and Netrin-G families, as well as diverse members of the immunoglobulin (Ig) and leucine-rich receptor (LRR) superfamilies, receptor tyrosine kinases and phosphatases, a variety of growth factors and receptors, and a large number of miscellaneous membrane-associated or secreted proteins not previously implicated in axonal guidance or neuronal connectivity. The diversity of their expression patterns indicates that thalamic nuclei are highly differentiated from each other, with each one displaying a unique repertoire of these molecules, consistent with a combinatorial logic to the specification of thalamic connectivity.