The ciliogenic transcription factor Rfx3 is required for the formation of the thalamocortical tract by regulating the patterning of prethalamus and ventral telencephalon

Hum Mol Genet. 2015 May 1;24(9):2578-93. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddv021. Epub 2015 Jan 28.


Primary cilia are complex subcellular structures that play key roles during embryogenesis by controlling the cellular response to several signaling pathways. Defects in the function and/or structure of primary cilia underlie a large number of human syndromes collectively referred to as ciliopathies. Often, ciliopathies are associated with mental retardation (MR) and malformation of the corpus callosum. However, the possibility of defects in other forebrain axon tracts, which could contribute to the cognitive disorders of these patients, has not been explored. Here, we investigate the formation of the corticothalamic/thalamocortical tracts in mice mutant for Rfx3, which regulates the expression of many genes involved in ciliogenesis and cilia function. Using DiI axon tracing and immunohistochemistry experiments, we show that some Rfx3(-/-) corticothalamic axons abnormally migrate toward the pial surface of the ventral telencephalon (VT). Some thalamocortical axons (TCAs) also fail to leave the diencephalon or abnormally project toward the amygdala. Moreover, the Rfx3(-/-) VT displays heterotopias containing attractive guidance cues and expressing the guidance molecules Slit1 and Netrin1. Finally, the abnormal projection of TCAs toward the amygdala is also present in mice carrying a mutation in the Inpp5e gene, which is mutated in Joubert Syndrome and which controls cilia signaling and stability. The presence of identical thalamocortical malformations in two independent ciliary mutants indicates a novel role for primary cilia in the formation of the corticothalamic/thalamocortical tracts by establishing the correct cellular environment necessary for its development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Homozygote
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Regulatory Factor X Transcription Factors
  • Telencephalon / embryology
  • Telencephalon / metabolism*
  • Telencephalon / pathology
  • Thalamus / embryology
  • Thalamus / metabolism*
  • Thalamus / pathology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Zinc Finger Protein Gli3


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Gli3 protein, mouse
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RFX3 protein, human
  • Regulatory Factor X Transcription Factors
  • Rfx3 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zinc Finger Protein Gli3
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase