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cATR Tracing Approach to Identify Individual Intermediary Neurons Based on Their Input and Output: A Proof-of-Concept Study Connecting Cerebellum and Central Hubs Implicated in Developmental Disorders

van Hoogstraten, WS;Lute, MCC;Nusselder, H;Kros, L;van den Maagdenberg, AMJM;De Zeeuw, CI;

Over the past decades, it has become increasingly clear that many neurodevelopmental disorders can be characterized by aberrations in the neuro-anatomical connectome of intermediary hubs. Yet, despite the advent in unidirectional transsynaptic tracing technologies, we are still lacking an efficient approach to identify individual neurons based on both their precise input and output relations, hampering our ability to elucidate the precise connectome in both the healthy and diseased condition. Here, we bridge this gap by combining anterograde transsynaptic- and retrograde (cATR) tracing in Ai14 reporter mice, using adeno-associated virus serotype 1 expressing Cre and cholera toxin subunit B as the anterograde and retrograde tracer, respectively. We have applied this innovative approach to selectively identify individual neurons in the brainstem that do not only receive input from one or more of the cerebellar nuclei (CN), but also project to the primary motor cortex (M1), the amygdala or the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Cells directly connecting CN to M1 were found mainly in the thalamus, while a large diversity of midbrain and brainstem areas connected the CN to the amygdala or VTA. Our data highlight that cATR allows for specific, yet brain-wide, identification of individual neurons that mediate information from a cerebellar nucleus to the cerebral cortex, amygdala or VTA via a disynaptic pathway. Given that the identified neurons in healthy subjects can be readily quantified, our data also form a solid foundation to make numerical comparisons with mouse mutants suffering from aberrations in their connectome due to a neurodevelopmental disorder.