Journal of Neuroscience vol:20 issue:15 pages:5841-5847
The molecular mechanisms that coordinate the functional organization of the mammalian neocortex are largely unknown. We tested the involvement of a putative guidance label, ephrin-A5, in the functional organization of the somatosensory cortex by quantifying the functional representations of individual whiskers in vivo in adult ephrin-A5 knock-out mice, using intrinsic signal optical imaging. In wild-type mice ephrin-A5 is expressed in a gradient in the somatosensory cortex during development. In adult ephrin-A5 knock-out mice, we found a spatial gradient of change in the amount of cortical territory shared by individual whisker functional representations across the somatosensory cortex, as well as a gradient of change in the distance between the functional representations. Both gradients of change were in correspondence with the developmental expression gradient of ephrin-A5 in wild-type mice. These changes involved malformations of the cortical spacing of the thalamocortical components, without concurrent malformations of the intracortical components of individual whisker functional representations. Overall, these results suggest that a developmental guidance label, such as ephrin-A5, is involved in establishing certain spatial relationships of the functional organization of the adult neocortex, and they underscore the advantage of investigating gene manipulation using in vivo functional imaging.