Molecular analysis of neocortical layer structure in the ferret. Academic Article uri icon


  • Molecular markers that distinguish specific layers of rodent neocortex are increasingly employed to study cortical development and the physiology of cortical circuits. The extent to which these markers represent general features of neocortical cell type identity across mammals, however, is unknown. To assess the conservation of layer markers more broadly, we isolated orthologs for 15 layer-enriched genes in the ferret, a carnivore with a large, gyrencephalic brain, and analyzed their patterns of neocortical gene expression. Our major findings are: 1) Many but not all layer markers tested show similar patterns of layer-specific gene expression between mouse and ferret cortex, supporting the view that layer-specific cell type identity is conserved at a molecular level across mammalian superorders; 2) Our panel of deep layer markers (ER81/ETV1, SULF2, PCP4, FEZF2/ZNF312, CACNA1H, KCNN2/SK2, SYT6, FOXP2, CTGF) provides molecular evidence that the specific stratifications of layers 5 and 6 into 5a, 5b, 6a, and 6b are also conserved between rodents and carnivores; 3) Variations in layer-specific gene expression are more pronounced across areas of ferret cortex than between homologous areas of mouse and ferret cortex; 4) This variation of area gene expression was clearest with the superficial layer markers studied (SERPINE2, MDGA1, CUX1, UNC5D, RORB/NR1F2, EAG2/KCNH5). Most dramatically, the layer 4 markers RORB and EAG2 disclosed a molecular sublamination to ferret visual cortex and demonstrated a molecular dissociation among the so-called agranular areas of the neocortex. Our findings establish molecular markers as a powerful complement to cytoarchitecture for neocortical layer and cell-type comparisons across mammals.

publication date

  • August 15, 2010