Combinatorial expression patterns of LIM-homeodomain and other regulatory genes parcellate developing thalamus

Y. Nakagawa, D. D.M. O'Leary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


The anatomical and functional organization of dorsal thalamus (dTh) and ventral thalamus (vTh), two major regions of the diencephalon, is characterized by their parcellation into distinct cell groups, or nuclei, that can be histologically defined in postnatal animals. However, because of the complexity of dTh and vTh and difficulties in histologically defining nuclei at early developmental stages, our understanding of the mechanisms that control the parcellation of dTh and vTh and the differentiation of nuclei is limited. We have defined a set of regulatory genes, which include five LIM-homeodomain transcription factors (Isl1, Lhx1, Lhx2, Lhx5, and Lhx9) and three other genes (Gbx2, Ngn2, and Pax6), that are differentially expressed in dTh and vTh of early postnatal mice in distinct but overlapping patterns that mark nuclei or subsets of nuclei. These genes exhibit differential expression patterns in dTh and vTh as early as embryonic day 10.5, when neurogenesis begins; the expression of most of them is detected as progenitor cells exit the cell cycle. Soon thereafter, their expression patterns are very similar to those that we observe postnatally, indicating that unique combinations of these genes mark specific cell groups from the time they are generated to their later differentiation into nuclei. Our findings suggest that these genes act in a combinatorial manner to control the specification of nuclei-specific properties of thalamic cells and the differentiation of nuclei within dTh and vTh. These genes may also influence the pathfinding and targeting of thalamocortical axons through both cell-autonomous and non-autonomous mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2711-2725
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2001


  • Dorsal thalamus
  • Gbx2
  • Isl1
  • LIM-homeodomain
  • Lhx1
  • Lhx2
  • Lhx5
  • Lhx9
  • Neuronal specification
  • Ngn2
  • Pax6
  • RPTPδ
  • Thalamic nuclei
  • Thalamocortical projection
  • Transcription factors
  • Ventral thalamus


Dive into the research topics of 'Combinatorial expression patterns of LIM-homeodomain and other regulatory genes parcellate developing thalamus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this