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2 Janelia Publications

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    09/16/19 | A repeated molecular architecture across thalamic pathways.
    Phillips JW, Schulmann A, Hara E, Winnubst J, Liu C, Valakh V, Wang L, Shields BC, Korff W, Chandrashekar J, Lemire AL, Mensh B, Dudman JT, Nelson SB, Hantman AW
    Nature Neuroscience. 2019 Sep 16;22(11):1925-35. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0483-3

    The thalamus is the central communication hub of the forebrain and provides the cerebral cortex with inputs from sensory organs, subcortical systems and the cortex itself. Multiple thalamic regions send convergent information to each cortical region, but the organizational logic of thalamic projections has remained elusive. Through comprehensive transcriptional analyses of retrogradely labeled thalamic neurons in adult mice, we identify three major profiles of thalamic pathways. These profiles exist along a continuum that is repeated across all major projection systems, such as those for vision, motor control and cognition. The largest component of gene expression variation in the mouse thalamus is topographically organized, with features conserved in humans. Transcriptional differences between these thalamic neuronal identities are tied to cellular features that are critical for function, such as axonal morphology and membrane properties. Molecular profiling therefore reveals covariation in the properties of thalamic pathways serving all major input modalities and output targets, thus establishing a molecular framework for understanding the thalamus.

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    12/31/17 | A topographic axis of transcriptional identity in thalamus.
    Phillips JW, Schulman A, Hara E, Liu C, Shields BC, Korff W, Lemire A, Dudman JT, Nelson SB, Hantman AW
    bioRxiv. 2017 Dec 31:241315. doi: 10.1101/241315

    A fundamental goal in neuroscience is to uncover common principles by which different modalities of information are processed. In the mammalian brain, thalamus acts as the essential hub for forebrain circuits handling inputs from sensory, motor, limbic, and cognitive pathways. Whether thalamus imposes common transformations on each of these modalities is unknown. Molecular characterization offers a principled approach to revealing the organization of thalamus. Using near-comprehensive and projection-specific transcriptomic sequencing, we found that almost all thalamic nuclei fit into one of three profiles. These profiles lie on a single axis of genetic variance which is aligned with the mediolateral spatial axis of thalamus. Genes defining this axis of variance include receptors and ion channels, providing a systematic diversification of input/output transformations across the topography of thalamus. Single cell transcriptional profiling revealed graded heterogeneity within individual thalamic nuclei, demonstrating that a spectrum of cell types and potentially diverse input/output transforms exist within a given thalamic nucleus. Together, our data argue for an archetypal organization of pathways serving diverse input modalities, and provides a comprehensive organizational scheme for thalamus.

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