Functional networks in the mammalian cerebral cortex rely on the interaction between glutamatergic pyramidal cells and GABAergic interneurons. Both neuronal populations exhibit an extraordinary divergence in morphology and targeting areas, which ultimately dictate their precise function in cortical circuits. How these prominent morphological differences arise during development is not well understood. Here, we conducted a high-throughput screen for genes differentially expressed by pyramidal cells and interneurons during cortical wiring. We found that NEK7, a kinase involved in microtubule polymerization, is mostly expressed in parvalbumin (PV+) interneurons at the time when they establish their connectivity. Functional experiments revealed that NEK7-deficient PV+ interneurons show altered microtubule dynamics, axon growth cone steering and reduced axon length, arbor complexity, and total number of synaptic contacts formed with pyramidal cells. Altogether, our results reveal a molecular mechanism by which the microtubule-associated kinase NEK7 regulates the wiring of PV+ interneurons.
Keywords: axon development; diversity; microtubules; parvalbumin interneurons; synapse formation.
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