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The subplate zone is a highly dynamic transient sector of the developing cerebral cortex that contains some of the earliest generated neurons and the first functional synapses of the cerebral cortex. Subplate cells have important functions in early establishment and maturation of thalamocortical connections, as well as in the development of inhibitory cortical circuits in sensory areas. So far no role has been identified for cells in the subplate in the mature brain and disease association of the subplate-specific genes has not been analyzed systematically. Here we present gene expression evidence for distinct roles of the mouse subplate across development as well as unique molecular markers to extend the repertoire of subplate labels. Performing systematic comparisons between different ages (embryonic days 15 and 18, postnatal day 8, and adult), we reveal the dynamic and constant features of the markers labeling subplate cells during embryonic and early postnatal development and in the adult. This can be visualized using the online database of subplate gene expression at We also identify embryonic similarities in gene expression between the ventricular zones, intermediate zone, and subplate, and distinct postnatal similarities between subplate, layer 5, and layers 2/3. The genes expressed in a subplate-specific manner at some point during development show a statistically significant enrichment for association with autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. Our report emphasizes the importance of the study of transient features of the developing brain to better understand neurodevelopmental disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





3555 - 3560


Animals, Animals, Newborn, Autistic Disorder, Cerebral Cortex, Gene Expression Profiling, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Gene Regulatory Networks, Genetic Association Studies, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Organ Specificity, Protein Interaction Maps, Schizophrenia, Time Factors