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The mammalian eminentia thalami (EmT) (or thalamic eminence) is an embryonic forebrain structure of unknown function. Here, we examined the molecular and cellular properties of the mouse EmT. We first studied mRNA expression of signalling molecules and found that the EmT is a structure, rich in expression of secreted factors, with Wnts being the most abundantly detected. We then examined whether EmT tissue could induce cell fate changes when grafted ectopically. For this, we transplanted EmT tissue from a tau-GFP mouse to the ventral telencephalon of a wild type host, a telencephalic region where Wnt signalling is not normally active but which we showed in culture experiments is competent to respond to Wnts. We observed that the EmT was able to induce in adjacent ventral telencephalic cells ectopic expression of Lef1, a transcriptional activator and a target gene of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. These Lef1-positive;GFP-negative cells expressed the telencephalic marker Foxg1 but not Ascl1, which is normally expressed by ventral telencephalic cells. These results suggest that the EmT has the capacity to activate Wnt/β-catenin signalling in the ventral telencephalon and to suppress ventral telencephalic gene expression. Altogether, our data support a role of the EmT as a signalling centre in the developing mouse forebrain.
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