The cortical subplate is critical in regulating the entry of thalamocortical sensory afferents into the cortex. These afferents reach the subplate at embryonic day (E)15.5 in the mouse, but wait for several days, entering the cortical plate postnatally. We report that when transcription factor Lhx2 is lost in E11.5 cortical progenitors, which give rise to subplate neurons, thalamocortical afferents display premature, exuberant innervation of the E15.5 cortex. Embryonic mutant subplate neurons are correctly positioned below the cortical plate, but they display an altered transcriptome and immature electrophysiological properties during the waiting period. The sensory thalamus in these cortex-specific Lhx2 mutants displays atrophy, eventually leading to severe deficits in thalamocortical innervation. Strikingly, these phenotypes do not manifest if Lhx2 is lost in postmitotic subplate neurons. These results demonstrate a mechanism operating in subplate progenitors that has profound consequences on the growth of thalamocortical axons into the cortex.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience