The UNC-5 family of netrin receptors is known to regulate axon guidance, cell migration, and cell survival. We have previously demonstrated that unc5d, one of the UNC-5 family member genes, is specifically expressed in layer 4 of the developing rat neocortex (Zhong Y, Takemoto M, Fukuda T, Hattori Y, Murakami F, Nakajima D, Nakayama M, Yamamoto N. 2004. Identification of the genes that are expressed in the upper layers of the neocortex. Cereb Cortex. 14:1144-1152). However, the role of UNC5D in cortical development is still unknown. In this study, we revealed that unc5d was highly expressed in the primary sensory areas of the mouse neocortex at around postnatal day 7. Netrin-4 was also found to be predominantly expressed in layer 4 of the sensory cortex and sensory thalamic nuclei. Cell surface binding assay showed that netrin-4 protein bound to UNC5D-expressing cells. An in vitro study further demonstrated that cell death of unc5d-expressing layer 4 cells was reduced by exogenous application of netrin-4 protein, whereas UNC5D is not sufficient to mediate the effect of netrin-4 in deep layer cells. Taken together, these results suggest that UNC5D is primarily expressed by layer 4 cells in the primary sensory areas of the developing neocortex and may mediate the effect of netrin-4 on cortical cell survival in a lamina-specific manner.
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