The early topography of thalamocortical projections is shifted in Ebf1 and Dlx1/2 mutant mice

Development. 2002 Dec;129(24):5621-34. doi: 10.1242/dev.00166.


The prevailing model to explain the formation of topographic projections in the nervous system stipulates that this process is governed by information located within the projecting and targeted structures. In mammals, different thalamic nuclei establish highly ordered projections with specific neocortical domains and the mechanisms controlling the initial topography of these projections remain to be characterized. To address this issue, we examined Ebf1(-/-) embryos in which a subset of thalamic axons does not reach the neocortex. We show that the projections that do form between thalamic nuclei and neocortical domains have a shifted topography, in the absence of regionalization defects in the thalamus or neocortex. This shift is first detected inside the basal ganglia, a structure on the path of thalamic axons, and which develops abnormally in Ebf1(-/-) embryos. A similar shift in the topography of thalamocortical axons inside the basal ganglia and neocortex was observed in Dlx1/2(-/-) embryos, which also have an abnormal basal ganglia development. Furthermore, Dlx1 and Dlx2 are not expressed in the dorsal thalamus or in cortical projections neurons. Thus, our study shows that: (1) different thalamic nuclei do not establish projections independently of each other; (2) a shift in thalamocortical topography can occur in the absence of major regionalization defects in the dorsal thalamus and neocortex; and (3) the basal ganglia may contain decision points for thalamic axons' pathfinding and topographic organization. These observations suggest that the topography of thalamocortical projections is not strictly determined by cues located within the neocortex and may be regulated by the relative positioning of thalamic axons inside the basal ganglia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Genotype
  • Heterozygote
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology
  • Homozygote
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Thalamus / pathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Trans-Activators / physiology
  • Transcription Factors


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Distal-less homeobox proteins
  • Ebf1 protein, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors