Thalamic WNT3 Secretion Spatiotemporally Regulates the Neocortical Ribosome Signature and mRNA Translation to Specify Neocortical Cell Subtypes

J Neurosci. 2015 Aug 5;35(31):10911-26. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0601-15.2015.


Neocortical development requires tightly controlled spatiotemporal gene expression. However, the mechanisms regulating ribosomal complexes and the timed specificity of neocortical mRNA translation are poorly understood. We show that active mRNA translation complexes (polysomes) contain ribosomal protein subsets that undergo dynamic spatiotemporal rearrangements during mouse neocortical development. Ribosomal protein specificity within polysome complexes is regulated by the arrival of in-growing thalamic axons, which secrete the morphogen Wingless-related MMTV (mouse mammary tumor virus) integration site 3 (WNT3). Thalamic WNT3 release during midneurogenesis promotes a change in the levels of Ribosomal protein L7 in polysomes, thereby regulating neocortical translation machinery specificity. Furthermore, we present an RNA sequencing dataset analyzing mRNAs that dynamically associate with polysome complexes as neocortical development progresses, and thus may be regulated spatiotemporally at the level of translation. Thalamic WNT3 regulates neocortical translation of two such mRNAs, Foxp2 and Apc, to promote FOXP2 expression while inhibiting APC expression, thereby driving neocortical neuronal differentiation and suppressing oligodendrocyte maturation, respectively. This mechanism may enable targeted and rapid spatiotemporal control of ribosome composition and selective mRNA translation in complex developing systems like the neocortex.

Significance statement: The neocortex is a highly complex circuit generating the most evolutionarily advanced complex cognitive and sensorimotor functions. An intricate progression of molecular and cellular steps during neocortical development determines its structure and function. Our goal is to study the steps regulating spatiotemporal specificity of mRNA translation that govern neocortical development. In this work, we show that the timed secretion of Wingless-related MMTV (mouse mammary tumor virus) integration site 3 (WNT3) by ingrowing axons from the thalamus regulates the combinatorial composition of ribosomal proteins in developing neocortex, which we term the "neocortical ribosome signature." Thalamic WNT3 further regulates the specificity of mRNA translation and development of neurons and oligodendrocytes in the neocortex. This study advances our overall understanding of WNT signaling and the spatiotemporal regulation of mRNA translation in highly complex developing systems.

Keywords: Wnt; mRNA translation; neocortex; ribosome; thalamocortical.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Mice
  • Neocortex / cytology*
  • Neocortex / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Ribosomes / genetics
  • Ribosomes / metabolism*
  • Thalamus / metabolism*
  • Wnt3 Protein / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Wnt3 Protein
  • Wnt3 protein, mouse