The Fezf2-Ctip2 genetic pathway regulates the fate choice of subcortical projection neurons in the developing cerebral cortex.
ABSTRACT: Pyramidal neurons in the deep layers of the cerebral cortex can be classified into two major classes: callosal projection neurons and long-range subcortical neurons. We and others have shown that a gene expressed specifically by subcortical projection neurons, Fezf2, is required for the formation of axonal projections to the spinal cord, tectum, and pons. Here, we report that Fezf2 regulates a decision between subcortical vs. callosal projection neuron fates. Fezf2(-/-) neurons adopt the fate of callosal projection neurons as assessed by their axonal projections, electrophysiological properties, and acquisition of Satb2 expression. Ctip2 is a major downstream effector of Fezf2 in regulating the extension of axons toward subcortical targets and can rescue the axonal phenotype of Fezf2 mutants. When ectopically expressed, either Fezf2 or Ctip2 can alter the axonal targeting of corticocortical projection neurons and cause them to project to subcortical targets, although Fezf2 can promote a subcortical projection neuron fate in the absence of Ctip2 expression.
Project description:Neurons within each layer in the mammalian cortex have stereotypic projections. Four genes-Fezf2, Ctip2, Tbr1, and Satb2-regulate these projection identities. These genes also interact with each other, and it is unclear how these interactions shape the final projection identity. Here we show, by generating double mutants of Fezf2, Ctip2, and Satb2, that cortical neurons deploy a complex genetic switch that uses mutual repression to produce subcortical or callosal projections. We discovered that Tbr1, EphA4, and Unc5H3 are critical downstream targets of Satb2 in callosal fate specification. This represents a unique role for Tbr1, implicated previously in specifying corticothalamic projections. We further show that Tbr1 expression is dually regulated by Satb2 and Ctip2 in layers 2-5. Finally, we show that Satb2 and Fezf2 regulate two disease-related genes, Auts2 (Autistic Susceptibility Gene2) and Bhlhb5 (mutated in Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia), providing a molecular handle to investigate circuit disorders in neurodevelopmental diseases.
Project description:The von Economo neurons (VENs) are large bipolar Layer V projection neurons found chiefly in the anterior cingulate and frontoinsular cortices. Although VENs have been linked to prevalent illnesses such as frontotemporal dementia, autism, and schizophrenia, little is known about VEN identity, including their major projection targets. Here, we undertook a developmental transcription factor expression study, focusing on markers associated with specific classes of Layer V projection neurons. Using mRNA in situ hybridization, we found that VENs prominently express FEZF2 and CTIP2, transcription factors that regulate the fate and differentiation of subcerebral projection neurons, in humans aged 3 months to 65 years. In contrast, few VENs expressed markers associated with callosal or corticothalamic projections. These findings suggest that VENs may represent a specialized Layer V projection neuron for linking cortical autonomic control sites to brainstem or spinal cord regions.
Project description:Generation of distinct cortical projection neuron subtypes during development relies in part on repression of alternative neuron identities. It was reported that the special AT-rich sequence-binding protein 2 (Satb2) is required for proper development of callosal neuron identity and represses expression of genes that are essential for subcerebral axon development. Surprisingly, Satb2 has recently been shown to be necessary for subcerebral axon development. Here, we unravel a previously unidentified mechanism underlying this paradox. We show that SATB2 directly activates transcription of forebrain embryonic zinc finger 2 (Fezf2) and SRY-box 5 (Sox5), genes essential for subcerebral neuron development. We find that the mutual regulation between Satb2 and Fezf2 enables Satb2 to promote subcerebral neuron identity in layer 5 neurons, and to repress subcerebral characters in callosal neurons. Thus, Satb2 promotes the development of callosal and subcerebral neurons in a cell context-dependent manner.
Project description:The molecular linkage between neocortical projection neuron subtype and area development, which enables the establishment of functional areas by projection neuron populations appropriate for specific sensory and motor functions, is poorly understood. Here, we report that Ctip1 controls precision of neocortical development by regulating subtype identity in deep-layer projection neurons. Ctip1 is expressed by postmitotic callosal and corticothalamic projection neurons but is excluded over embryonic development from corticospinal motor neurons, which instead express its close relative, Ctip2. Loss of Ctip1 function results in a striking bias in favor of subcerebral projection neuron development in sensory cortex at the expense of corticothalamic and deep-layer callosal development, while misexpression of Ctip1 in vivo represses subcerebral gene expression and projections. As we report in a paired paper, Ctip1 also controls acquisition of sensory area identity. Therefore, Ctip1 couples subtype and area specification, enabling specific functional areas to organize precise ratios of appropriate output projections.
Project description:The molecular mechanisms regulating fate divergence of closely related, but distinct, layer 6 corticothalamic and layer 5 subcerebral projection neurons are largely unknown. We present evidence for central transcriptional mechanisms that regulate fate specification of corticothalamic (layer 6) and subcerebral (layer 5) projection neurons. We found that TBR1 promotes the identity of corticothalamic neurons and represses subcerebral fates through reducing expression of Fezf2 and CTIP2. These conclusions are based on the following: (1) In Tbr1(-/-) mice, the number of cells expressing layer 6 markers was reduced, and the number of cells expressing layer 5 markers was increased. Early-born (birthdated on E11.5) neurons ectopically expressed subcerebral neuronal markers, and extended their axons into subcerebral targets. (2) Ectopic Tbr1 expression in layer 5 neurons prevented them from extending axons into the brainstem and the spinal cord. (3) Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis using TBR1 antibodies showed that TBR1 bound to a conserved region in the Fezf2 gene. (4) Analysis of Fezf2 mutants and Tbr1(-/-); Fezf2(-/-) compound mutants provided evidence that Fezf2 blocks corticothalamic fate in layer 5 by reducing Tbr1 expression in subcerebral neurons. All neocortical regions appear to use this core transcriptional program to specify corticothalamic (layer 6) and subcerebral (layer 5) projection neurons.
Project description:First insights into the molecular programs orchestrating the progression from neural stem cells to cortical projection neurons are emerging. Loss of the transcriptional regulator Ski has been linked to the human 1p36 deletion syndrome, which includes central nervous system defects. Here, we report critical roles for Ski in the maintenance of the neural stem cell pool and the specification of callosal neurons. Ski-deficient callosal neurons lose their identity and ectopically express the transcription factor Ctip2. The misspecified callosal neurons largely fail to form the corpus callosum and instead redirect their axons toward subcortical targets. We identify the chromatin-remodeling factor Satb2 as a partner of Ski, and show that both proteins are required for transcriptional repression of Ctip2 in callosal neurons. We propose a model in which Satb2 recruits Ski to the Ctip2 locus, and Ski attracts histone deacetylases, thereby enabling the formation of a functional nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase repressor complex. Our findings establish a central role for Ski-Satb2 interactions in regulating transcriptional mechanisms of callosal neuron specification.
Project description:Progenitor cells in the cerebral cortex sequentially generate distinct classes of projection neurons. Recent work suggests the cortex may contain intrinsically fate-restricted progenitors marked by expression of Cux2. However, the heterogeneity of the neocortical ventricular zone as well as the contribution of lineage-restricted progenitors to the overall cortical neurogenic program remains unclear. Here, we utilize in vivo genetic fate mapping to demonstrate that Fezf2-expressing radial glial cells (RGCs) exist throughout cortical development and sequentially generate all major projection neuron subtypes and glia. Moreover, we show that the vast majority of CUX2? cells in the VZ and SVZ are migrating interneurons derived from the subcortical telencephalon. Examination of the embryonic cortical progenitor population demonstrates that Cux2? RGCs generate both deep- and upper-layer projection neurons. These results identify Fezf2? radial glial cells as a multipotent neocortical progenitor and suggest that the existence, and molecular identity, of laminar-fate-restricted RGCs awaits further investigation.
Project description:Once programmed to acquire a specific identity and function, cells rarely change in vivo. Neurons of the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) in particular are a classic example of a stable, terminally differentiated cell type. With the exception of the adult neurogenic niches, where a limited set of neuronal subtypes continue to be generated throughout life, CNS neurons are born only during embryonic and early postnatal development. Once generated, neurons become permanently post-mitotic and do not change their identity for the lifespan of the organism. Here, we have investigated whether excitatory neurons of the neocortex can be instructed to directly reprogram their identity post-mitotically from one subtype into another, in vivo. We show that embryonic and early postnatal callosal projection neurons of layer II/III can be post-mitotically lineage reprogrammed into layer-V/VI corticofugal projection neurons following expression of the transcription factor encoded by Fezf2. Reprogrammed callosal neurons acquire molecular properties of corticofugal projection neurons and change their axonal connectivity from interhemispheric, intracortical projections to corticofugal projections directed below the cortex. The data indicate that during a window of post-mitotic development neurons can change their identity, acquiring critical features of alternative neuronal lineages.
Project description:The corticospinal (CS) tract is involved in controlling discrete voluntary skilled movements in mammals. The CS tract arises exclusively from layer (L) 5 projection neurons of the cerebral cortex, and its formation requires L5 activity of Fezf2 (Fezl, Zfp312). How this L5-specific pattern of Fezf2 expression and CS axonal connectivity is established with such remarkable fidelity had remained elusive. Here we show that the transcription factor TBR1 directly binds the Fezf2 locus and represses its activity in L6 corticothalamic projection neurons to restrict the origin of the CS tract to L5. In Tbr1 null mutants, CS axons ectopically originate from L6 neurons in a Fezf2-dependent manner. Consistently, misexpression of Tbr1 in L5 CS neurons suppresses Fezf2 expression and effectively abolishes the CS tract. Taken together, our findings show that TBR1 is a direct transcriptional repressor of Fezf2 and a negative regulator of CS tract formation that restricts the laminar origin of CS axons specifically to L5.
Project description:During the development of the cerebral cortex, progenitor cells produce neurons that migrate to laminar positions appropriate for their birth dates, adopt specific neuronal identities, and form appropriate local and long-distance axonal connections. Here, we report that forebrain embryonic zinc-finger-like protein (Fezl), a putative zinc-finger transcriptional repressor, is required for the differentiation of projection neurons in cortical layer 5. In Fezl-deficient mice, these neurons display molecular, morphological, and axonal targeting defects. The corticospinal tract was absent in Fezl(-/-) mice, corticotectal and pontine projections were severely reduced, and Fezl-expressing neurons formed aberrant axonal projections. The expression of many molecular markers for deep-layer neurons was reduced or absent in the Fezl(-/-) cerebral cortex. Most strikingly, Ctip2, a transcription factor required for the formation of the corticospinal tract, was not expressed in the Fezl-deficient cortex. These results suggest that Fezl regulates the differentiation of layer 5 subcortical projection neurons.