A dominant feature of neural circuitry is the organization of neuronal projections and synapses into specific brain nuclei or laminae. Lamina-specific connectivity is controlled by the selective expression of extracellular guidance and adhesion molecules in the target field. However, how (sub)nucleus-specific connections are established and whether axon-derived cues contribute to subdomain targeting are largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the lateral subnucleus of the habenula (lHb) determines its own afferent innervation by sending out efferent projections that express the cell adhesion molecule LAMP to reciprocally collect and guide dopaminergic afferents to the lHb-a phenomenon we term subdomain-mediated axon-axon signaling. This process of reciprocal axon-axon interactions cooperates with lHb-specific chemoattraction mediated by Netrin-1, which controls axon target entry, to ensure specific innervation of the lHb. We propose that cooperation between pretarget reciprocal axon-axon signaling and subdomain-restricted instructive cues provides a highly precise and general mechanism to establish subdomain-specific neural circuitry.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.