The striatum is the key input nucleus of the basal ganglia, and is implicated in motor control and learning. Despite the importance of striatal circuits, the mechanisms associated with their development are not well established. Previously, Ten-m3, a member of the Ten-m/teneurin/odz family of transmembrane glycoproteins, was found to be important in the mapping of binocular visual pathways. Here, we investigated a potential role for Ten-m3 in striatal circuit formation. In situ hybridisation revealed a patchy distribution of Ten-m3 mRNA expression superimposed on a high-dorsal to low-ventral gradient in a subregion of the striatal matrix. A survey of afferent/efferent structures associated with the matrix identified the parafascicular thalamic nucleus (PF) as a potential locus of action. Ten-m3 was also found to be expressed in a high-dorsal to low-ventral gradient in the PF, corresponding topographically to its expression in the striatum. Further, a subset of thalamic terminal clusters overlapped with Ten-m3-positive domains within the striatal matrix. Studies in wild-type (WT) and Ten-m3 knockout (KO) mice revealed no differences in overall striatal or PF structure. Thalamostriatal terminals in KOs, however, while still confined to the matrix subregion, lost their clustered appearance. Topography was also altered, with terminals from the lateral PF projecting ectopically to ventral and medial striatum, rather than remaining confined dorsolaterally as in WTs. Behaviorally, Ten-m3 KOs displayed delayed motor skill acquisition. This study demonstrates that Ten-m3 plays a key role in directing the formation of thalamostriatal circuitry, the first molecular candidate reported to regulate connectivity within this pathway.
Using a combination of in situ hybridisation and anterograde tracing, the authors show that dense clusters of thalamostriatal terminations originating from the parafascicular thalamic nucleus (PF) target patches of Ten-m3-positive cells in the striatum. This clustering, along with gross topography, is altered in the absence of Ten-m3, and results in disrupted procedural learning.