N-cadherin regulates ingrowth and laminar targeting of thalamocortical axons

Kira Poskanzer, Leigh A. Needleman, Ozlem Bozdagi, George W. Huntley

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56 Scopus citations


Thalamocortical axons are precisely targeted to cortical layer IV, but the identity of specific molecules that govern the establishment of laminar specificity in the thalamocortical projection has been elusive. In this study, we test the role of N-cadherin, a homophilic cell adhesion molecule, in laminar targeting of thalamocortical axons using cocultured thalamic and cortical slice explants exposed to N-cadherin function-blocking antibodies or inhibitory peptides. In untreated cocultures, labeled thalamocortical axons normally grow to and stop in layer IV, forming terminal-like arbors. In the N-cadherin-blocked cocultures, thalamic axons reach layer IV by growing through deep layers at the same rate as those in the untreated cocultures, but instead of terminating in layer IV, they continue growing uninterruptedly through layer IV and extend into supragranular layers to reach the outermost cortical edge, where some form terminal-like arbors in this aberrant laminar position. In cocultures in which the cortical slice is taken at an earlier maturational stage, one that corresponds to a time when thalamic axons are normally growing through deep layers before the emergence of layer IV from the cortical plate, thalamic axon ingrowth through deep layers is significantly attenuated by N-cadherin blocking reagents. These data indicate that N-cadherin has multifaceted roles in establishing the thalamocortical projection, governing aspects of both thalamic axon ingrowth and laminar targeting by acting as a layer IV stop signal, which progressively change in parallel with the maturational state of the cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2294-2305
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2003
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Axon outgrowth
  • Axon targeting
  • Barrel cortex
  • Cell adhesion molecules
  • Stop signal
  • Synaptogenesis
  • Thalamocortical
  • Ventrobasal nucleus


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