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The expression and activity of β-catenin in the thalamus and its projections to the cerebral cortex in the mouse embryo

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2202-13-20

Keywords: β-catenin, Netrin-1, Thalamus, Growth cones, mRNA, BAT-gal

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Abstract:

At embryonic day (E)15.5, the time when thalamocortical axonal projections are forming, we found that the thalamus is a site of particularly high β-catenin mRNA and protein expression. As well as being expressed at high levels in thalamic cell bodies, β-catenin protein is enriched in the axons and growth cones of thalamic axons and its growth cone concentration is sensitive to Netrin-1. Using mice carrying the β-catenin reporter BAT-gal we find high levels of reporter activity in the thalamus. Further, Netrin-1 induces BAT-gal reporter expression and upregulates levels of endogenous transcripts encoding β-actin and L1 proteins in cultured thalamic cells. We found that β-catenin mRNA is enriched in thalamic axons and its 3'UTR is phylogenetically conserved and is able to direct heterologous mRNAs along the thalamic axon, where they can be translated.We provide evidence that β-catenin protein is likely to be an important player in thalamocortcial development. It is abundant both in the nucleus and in the growth cones of post-mitotic thalamic cells during the development of thalamocortical connectivity and β-catenin mRNA is targeted to thalamic axons and growth cones where it could potentially be translated. β-catenin is involved in transducing the Netrin-1 signal to thalamic cells suggesting a mechanism by which Netrin-1 guides thalamocortical development.The adult thalamus is a complex structure in the centre of the brain, comprising clusters of functionally related cells organised into a large number of nuclei. Thalamic nuclei form precise reciprocal connections with their targets in the cerebral cortex providing it with most of its sensory innervation via thalamocortical axons. In mice axons grow from the thalamus into the ventral telencephalon at around embryonic day (E)12-13 and then on to the cerebral cortex which they first reach at around E13-14 [1-7]. The development of the thalamus and its connections relies on intercellular communication mediated by secrete

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