Gradient COUP-TFI Expression Is Required for Functional Organization of the Hippocampal Septo-Temporal Longitudinal Axis.
The adult hippocampal formation (HF) is functionally, connectionally, and transcriptionally differentiated along the dorsal–ventral axis. At birth, the hippocampus appears shortened along its dorsal–ventral axis. We therefore questioned at what postnatal age the differentiated dorsal–ventral hippocampus is present. We first established that the ventral tissue in the short postnatal hippocampus remains ventral in the adult-like hippocampus. Second, using anatomical tracing techniques we report that, within the first postnatal week, the main input from the entorhinal cortex (EC) to HF is topographically organized. The terminal distribution of this input along the dorsal–ventral axis of HF was related to a dorsolateral-to-ventromedial axis of origin in EC, thus reflecting adult topography. Finally, we examined gene expression along the dorsal–ventral axis in the developing hippocampus. We found that several genes that were differentially enriched in the adult dorsal and ventral hippocampus were similarly enriched in the dorsal and ventral hippocampal poles at birth. The differentially expressed genes relate to different molecular pathways and biomarkers of disease. Taken together, these data lead us to conclude that the entire dorsal–ventral axis of HF is present at birth showing adult-like functional differentiation. Moreover, our findings indicate that the neonatal ventral hippocampus is enriched with biomarkers associated with mental illnesses. These include schizophrenia, affective and anxiety disorders, disorders previously deemed as ventral hippocampal associated disorders, as well as alcoholism. Our results thus suggest an early developmental susceptibility of the ventral HF to mental illness.