Spatiotemporal SERT expression in cortical map development

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The cerebral cortex is organized into morphologically distinct areas that provide biological frameworks underlying perception, cognition, and behavior. Profiling mouse and human cortical transcriptomes have revealed temporal-specific differential gene expression modules in distinct neocortical areas during cortical map establishment. However, the biological roles of spatiotemporal gene expression in cortical patterning and how cortical topographic gene expression is regulated are largely unknown. Here, we characterize temporal- and spatial-defined expression of serotonin (5-HT) transporter (SERT) in glutamatergic neurons during sensory map development in mice. SERT is transiently expressed in glutamatergic thalamic neurons projecting to sensory cortices and in pyramidal neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus (HPC) during the period that lays down the basic functional neural circuits. We previously identified that knockout of SERT in the thalamic neurons blocks 5-HT uptake by their thalamocortical axons, resulting in excessive 5-HT signaling that impairs sensory map architecture. In contrast, here we show that selective SERT knockout in the PFC and HPC neurons does not perturb sensory map patterning. These data suggest that transient SERT expression in specific glutamatergic neurons provides area-specific instructions for cortical map patterning. Hence, genetic and pharmacological manipulations of this SERT function could illuminate the fundamental genetic programming of cortex-specific maps and biological roles of temporal-specific cortical topographic gene expression in normal development and mental disorders.

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