Combinatorial expression of cadherins in the tectum and the sorting of neurites in the tectofugal pathways of the chicken embryo

Neuroscience. 1999 Mar;90(3):985-1000. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(98)00526-0.


The expression of four cadherins (N-cadherin, R-cadherin, cadherin-6B and cadherin-7) was mapped in the developing tectal system of the chicken embryo from four to 19 days of incubation. Each of the cadherins is expressed in a restricted fashion in specific tectal layers, with partial overlap between the cadherins. In some layers, subpopulations of neurons differentially express the cadherins, e.g., in the stratum griseum centrale. Double labeling demonstrates that many of the projection neurons in this layer co-express at least two cadherins. Fibers of the efferent (tectofugal) pathways originating in these neurons also differentially express the cadherins, most prominently at around 1 1 days of incubation. While the different subpopulations of cadherin-expressing projection neurons are dispersed and mixed within the tectum, their neurites sort out and fasciculate according to which cadherin they express, as they collect in the major output of the tectum, the brachium colliculi superioris. From here, cadherin-expressing fascicles follow separate paths to their respective target areas, some of which also express the respective cadherins, in a matching fashion. We propose that the preferentially homophilic binding of cadherins provides a potential adhesive basis for the sorting and selective fasciculation of specific subpopulations of neurites, similar to the well-established sorting and aggregation of cells expressing cadherins. The combinatorial expression of cadherins by the tectal projection neurons may contribute to the complexity and specificity of functional connections in this system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Chick Embryo / metabolism*
  • Chick Embryo / physiology*
  • Efferent Pathways / embryology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Neurites / physiology*
  • Tectum Mesencephali / embryology*


  • Cadherins