Itoh Y, Sahni V, Shnider S, Macklis JD. 2021. Lumican regulates cervical corticospinal axon collateralization via non-autonomous crosstalk between distinct corticospinal neuron subpopulations. BioRxiv. DOI:10.1101/2021.03.26.437104


Corticospinal neurons (CSN) are the cortical projection neurons that innervate the spinal cord and some brainstem targets with segmental precision to control voluntary movement of specific functional motor groups, limb sections, or individual digits. CSN subpopulations exhibit striking axon targeting specificity from development into maturity: Evolutionarily newer rostrolateral CSN exclusively innervate bulbar-cervical targets (CSNBC-lat), while evolutionarily older caudomedial CSN (CSNmedial) are more heterogeneous, with distinct subpopulations extending axons to either bulbar-cervical or thoraco-lumbar segments. However, molecular regulation over specificity of CSN segmental target innervation is essentially unknown. The cervical cord, with its evolutionarily enhanced precision of forelimb movement, is innervated by multiple CSN subpopulations, suggesting inter-neuronal interactions in establishing cervical corticospinal circuitry. Here, we identify that Lumican, previously unrecognized in axon development, controls the balance of innervation between CSNBC-lat and CSNmedial within the cervical spinal cord. Remarkably, Lumican, an extracellular matrix protein expressed by CSNBC-lat, non-cell-autonomously suppresses axon collateralization in the cervical cord by CSNmedial. Intersectional viral labeling and mouse genetics further identify that Lumican controls axon collateralization by multiple CSN subpopulations in caudomedial sensorimotor cortex. These results identify inter-axonal molecular crosstalk between CSN subpopulations as a novel mechanism controlling corticospinal circuitry, target density, and competitive specificity. Further, this mechanism has potential implications for evolutionary diversification of corticospinal circuitry with finer scale precision.
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Jeffrey Macklis investigates molecular controls and mechanisms over neuron subtype specification, development, diversity, axon guidance-circuit formation, and pathology in the cerebral cortex. His lab seeks to apply developmental controls toward brain and spinal cord regeneration and directed differentiation for in vitro mechanistic modeling using human assembloids.

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