Somatosensation is the primary sensory modality employed by rodents in navigating their environments, and mystacial vibrissae on the snout are the primary conveyors of this information to the murine brain. The layout of vibrissae is spatially stereotyped and topographic connections faithfully maintain this layout throughout the neuraxis. Several factors have been shown to influence general vibrissal innervation by trigeminal neurons. Here, the role of a cell surface receptor, EphA4, in directing position-dependent vibrissal innervation is examined. EphA4 is expressed in the ventral region of the presumptive whisker pad and EphA4-/- mice lack the ventroposterior-most vibrissae. Analyses reveal that ventral trigeminal axons are abnormal, failing to innervate emerging vibrissae, and resulting in the absence of a select group of vibrissae in EphA4-/- mice. EphA4's selective effect on a subset of whiskers implicates cell-based signaling in the establishment of position-dependent connectivity and topography in the peripheral somatosensory system.
- Axon pathfinding
- Trigeminal ganglion