Fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) gene products (Fgfr1, Fgfr2, Fgfr3) are widely expressed by embryonic neural progenitor cells throughout the CNS, yet their functional role in cerebral cortical development is still unclear. To understand whether the FGF pathways play a role in cortical development, we attenuated FGFR signaling by expressing a tyrosine kinase domain-deficient Fgfr1 (tFgfr1) gene construct during embryonic brain development. Mice carrying the tFgfr1 transgene under the control of the Otx1 gene promoter have decreased thickness of the cerebral cortex in frontal and temporal areas because of decreased number of pyramidal neurons and disorganization of pyramidal cell dendritic architecture. These alterations may be, in part, attributable to decreased genesis of T-Brain-1-positive early glutamatergic neurons and, in part, to a failure to maintain radial glia fibers in medial prefrontal and temporal areas of the cortical plate. No changes were detected in cortical GABAergic interneurons, including Cajal-Retzius cells or in the basal ganglia. Behaviorally, tFgfr1 transgenic mice displayed spontaneous and persistent locomotor hyperactivity that apparently was not attributable to alterations in subcortical monoaminergic systems, because transgenic animals responded to both amphetamine and guanfacine, an α2A adrenergic receptor agonist. We conclude that FGF tyrosine kinase signaling may be required for the genesis and growth of pyramidal neurons in frontal and temporal cortical areas, and that alterations in cortical development attributable to disrupted FGF signaling are critical for the inhibitory regulation of motor behavior.
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