Significant migration cues are required to guide and contain newly generated rodent subventricular zone (SVZ) neuroblasts as they transit along the lateral ventricles and then through the anterior forebrain to their ultimate site of differentiation in the olfactory bulbs (OB). These cues enforce strict neuroblast spatial boundaries within the dense astroglial meshwork of the SVZ and rostral migratory stream (RMS), yet are permissive to large-scale neuroblast migration. Therefore, the molecular mechanisms that define these cues and control dynamic interactions between migratory neuroblasts and surrounding astrocytes are of particular interest. We found that deletion of EphA4 and specifically ablation of EphA4 kinase activity resulted in misaligned neuroblasts and disorganized astrocytes in the RMS/SVZ, linking EphA4 forward signaling to SVZ and RMS spatial organization, orientation and regulation. In addition, within a 3-week period there was a significant reduction in the number of neuroblasts that reached the OB and integrated into the periglomerular layer, revealing a crucial role for EphA4 in facilitating efficient neuroblast migration to the OB. Single-cell analysis revealed that EPHA4 and its EFN binding partners are expressed by subpopulations of neuroblasts and astrocytes within the SVZ/RMS/OB system resulting in a cell-specific mosaic — suggesting complex EphA4 signaling involving both homotypic and heterotypic cell-cell interactions. Together, our studies reveal a novel molecular mechanism involving EphA4 signaling that functions in stem cell niche organization and ultimately neuroblast migration in the anterior forebrain.
The SVZ neurogenic stem cell niche generates highly migratory neuroblasts that transit the anterior forebrain along a defined pathway to the olfactory bulb. Postnatal and adult brain organization dictates strict adherence to a narrow migration corridor. SVZ neuroblasts are aligned in tightly bundled chains within a meshwork of astrocytes; however, the cell-cell cues that organize this unique, cell-dense migration pathway are largely unknown. Our studies show that forward signaling through the EphA4 tyrosine kinase receptor, mediated by ephrins expressed by subpopulations of neuroblasts and astrocytes, is required for compact, directional organization of neuroblasts and astrocytes within the pathway and efficient transit of neuroblasts through the anterior forebrain to the OB.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
We would like to thank Joshua Klein for illustrating our theoretical model; Patrick Malloy for assistance with creation of the Euler diagrams in Figure 5 and Stephen Daniels for assistance with electron microscopy as presented in Figure 1. Funding is from the NIH/NINDS (R01NS50338).