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There are two main types of layer V pyramidal neurons in rat cortex. Type I neurons have tufted apical dendrites extending into layer I, produce bursts of action potentials and project to subcortical targets (spinal cord, superior colliculus and pontine nuclei). Type II neurons have apical dendrites, which arborize in layers II-IV, do not produce bursts of action potentials and project to ipsilateral and contralateral cortex. The specific expression of different genes and proteins in these two distinct layer V neurons is unknown. To distinguish between distinct subpopulations, fluorescent microspheres were injected into subcortical targets (labeling type I neurons) or primary somatosensory cortex (labeling type II neurons) of adult rats. After transport, cortical sections were processed for immunohistochemistry using various antibodies. This study demonstrated that antigens recognized by SMI-32, N200 and FNP-7 antibodies were only expressed in subcortical (type I)--but not in contralateral (type II)--projecting neurons. NR1, NR2a/b, PLCbeta1, BDNF, NGF and TrkB antigens were highly expressed in all neuronal subpopulations examined. Organotypic culture experiments demonstrated that the development of neurofilament expression and laminar specificity does not depend on the presence of the subcortical targets. This study suggests specific markers for the subcortical projecting layer V neuron subpopulations.

Original publication




Journal article


Cereb Cortex

Publication Date





1276 - 1286


Animals, Gene Expression Regulation, Neurofilament Proteins, Pyramidal Cells, Rats, Rats, Wistar