Publication Date

2006-05-16

Availability

Open access

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Neuroscience (Medicine)

Date of Defense

2006-03-24

First Committee Member

Carlos Moraes - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Daniel Liebl - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Vladlen Slepak - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

John Bixby - Committee Member

Fifth Committee Member

Steven Ullmann - Dean of the Graduate School

Abstract

Ephrins and Eph receptors have been implicated in a number of developmental processes including axon growth and guidance. One important guidepost is the central nervous system midline, where ephrins and Eph receptors have been implicated. At the embryonic midline, axons either cross into the contralateral central nervous system (CNS) targeting appropriate partners on the opposite side or remain ipsilateral extending either rostrally or caudally. In these studies, we examine a major forebrain commissure called the corpus callosum (CC). Agenesis of the CC is a rare birth defect that occurs in isolated conditions and in combination with other developmental cerebral abnormalities. Recent identification of families of growth and guidance molecules has generated interest in the mechanisms that regulate callosal growth. One family, ephrins and Eph receptors, has been implicated in mediating midline pathfinding decisions; however, the complexity of these interactions has yet to be unraveled. This dissertation sheds light on which B-class ephrins and Eph receptors function to regulate CC midline growth, and how these molecules interact with important guideposts during development. We also show that multiple Eph receptors (B1, B2, B3, and A4) and B-class ephrins (B1, B2, and B3) are present and function in developing forebrain callosal fibers based on both spatial and temporal expression patterns and analysis of gene-targeted knockout mice. Defects are most pronounced in the combination double knockout mice, suggesting that compensatory mechanisms exist for several of these family members. Furthermore, these CC defects range from mild hypoplasia to complete agenesis and Probst's bundle formation. Further analysis of the ephrinB3 gene revealed that Probst's bundle formation may reflect aberrant glial formations which alter the normal architecture of midline glia resulting in one potential mechanism of this abnormal phenotype. Another potential mechanism we discovered is a role for EphB1 receptor in the altered sensitivity of CC axons to midline guidance cues. Removal of this receptor resulted in cortical axons responding to GW guidepost cells with increased sensitivity. Our results support a significant role for ephrins and Eph receptors in CC development and may provide insight to possible mechanisms involved in axon midline crossing as well how failed molecular and genetic mechanisms may contribute to human CC disorders. Lastly, we show that one fiber tract that remains ipsilateral in the forebrain may use distinct midline guideposts to regulate proper growth and guidance. These findings implicate additional ephrins and Eph receptors in CC midline guidance than previously known and reveal novel mechanisms in mice, which may be pertinent to human disease states that result in agenesis of the CC.

Keywords

B-Class Ephrins; EPH Receptors; Axon Regulation; Neuron Development

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