JOURNAL ARTICLE

Early postnatal lesion of the medial dorsal nucleus leads to loss of dendrites and spines in adult prefrontal cortex

Naydu Marmolejo, Jesse Paez, Jonathan B Levitt, Liesl B Jones
Developmental Neuroscience 2012, 34 (6): 463-76
23406908
Research suggests that the medial dorsal nucleus (MD) of the thalamus influences pyramidal cell development in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in an activity-dependent manner. The MD is reciprocally connected to the PFC. Many psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, affect the PFC, and one of the most consistent findings in schizophrenia is a decrease in volume and neuronal number in the MD. Therefore, understanding the role the MD plays in the development of the PFC is important and may help in understanding the progression of psychiatric disorders that have their root in development. Focusing on the interplay between the MD and the PFC, this study examined the hypothesis that the MD plays a role in the dendritic development of pyramidal cells in the PFC. Unilateral electrolytic lesions of the MD in Long-Evans rat pups were made on postnatal day 4 (P4), and the animals developed to P60. We then examined dendritic morphology by examining MAP2 immunostaining and by using Golgi techniques to determine basilar dendrite number and spine density. Additionally, we examined pyramidal cell density in cingulate area 1 (Cg1), prelimbic region, and dorsolateral anterior cortex, which receive afferents from the MD. Thalamic lesions caused a mean MD volume decrease of 12.4% which led to a significant decrease in MAP2 staining in both superficial and deep layers in all 3 cortical areas. The lesions also caused a significant decrease in spine density and in the number of primary and secondary basilar dendrites on superficial and deep layer pyramidal neurons in all 3 regions. No significant difference was observed in pyramidal cell density in any of the regions or layers, but a nonsignificant increase in cell density was observed in 2 regions. Our data are thus consistent with the hypothesis that the MD plays a role in the development of the PFC and, therefore, may be a good model to begin to examine neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

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