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Evidence suggests that motor experience plays a role in shaping development of the corticospinal system and voluntary motor control, which is a key motor function of the system. Here we used a mouse model with conditional forebrain deletion of the gene for EphA4 (Emx1-Cre:EphA4tm2Kldr), which regulates development of the laterality of corticospinal tract (CST). We combined study of Emx1-Cre:EphA4tm2Kldr with unilateral forelimb constraint during development to expand our understanding of experience-dependent CST development from both basic and translational perspectives. This mouse develops dense ipsilateral CST projections, a bilateral motor cortex motor representation, and bilateral motor phenotypes. Together these phenotypes can be used as readouts of corticospinal system organization and function and the changes brought about by experience. The Emx1-Cre:EphA4tm2Kldr mouse shares features with the common developmental disorder cerebral palsy: bilateral voluntary motor impairments and bilateral CST miswiring. Emx1- Cre:EphA4tm2Kldr mice with typical motor experiences during development display the bilateral phenotype of ªmirrorº reaching, because of a strongly bilateral motor cortex motor representation and a bilateral CST. By contrast, Emx1-Cre:EphA4tm2Kldr mice that experienced unilateral forelimb constraint from P1 to P30 and tested at maturity had a more contralateral motor cortex motor representation in each hemisphere; more lateralized CST projections; and substantially more lateralized/independent reaching movements. Changes in CST organization and function in this model can be explained by reduced synaptic competition of the CST from the side without developmental forelimb motor experiences. Using this model we show that unilateral constraint largely abrogated the effects of the genetic mutation on CST projections and thus demonstrates how robust and persistent experiencedependent development can be for the establishment of corticospinal system connections and voluntary control. Further, our findings inform the mechanisms of and strategies for developing behavioral therapies to treat bilateral movement impairments and CST miswiring in cerebral palsy.


This article was originally published in PLoS one, available at doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0163775.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.



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