Klingler, E., De la Rossa, A., Fièvre, S., Devaraju, K., Abe, P., & Jabaudon, D. (2019). A translaminar genetic logic for the circuit identity of intracortically projecting neurons. Current Biology, 29(2), 332-339. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.071.
Neurons of the neocortex are organized into six radial layers, which have appeared at different times during evolution, with the superficial layers representing a more recent acquisition. Input to the neocortex predominantly reaches superficial layers (SL, i.e., layers (L) 2-4), while output is generated in deep layers (DL, i.e., L5-6) . Intracortical connections, which bridge input and output pathways, are key components of cortical circuits because they allow the propagation and processing of information within the neocortex. Two main types of intracortically projecting neurons (ICPN) can be distinguished by their axonal features: L4 spiny stellate neurons (SSN) with short axons projecting locally within cortical columns [2, 3, 4, 5], and SL and DL long-range projection neurons, including callosally projecting neurons (CPNSL and CPNDL) [5, 6]. Here, we investigate the molecular hallmarks that distinguish SSN, CPNSL, and CPNDL and relate their transcriptional signatures with their output connectivity. Specifically, taking advantage of the presence of CPN in both SL and DL, we identify lamina-independent genetic hallmarks of a constant projection motif (i.e., interhemispheric projection). By performing unbiased transcriptomic comparisons between CPNSL, CPNDL and SSN, we provide specific molecular profiles for each of these populations and show that target identity supersedes laminar position in defining ICPN transcriptional diversity. Together, these findings reveal a projection-based organization of transcriptional programs across cortical layers, which we propose reflects conserved strategy to protect canonical circuit structure (and hence function) across a diverse range of neuroanatomies.