Innate emotion response to environmental stimuli is a fundamental brain function that is controlled by specific neural circuits. Dysfunction of early emotional circuits may lead to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. However, how the functional circuits are formed to prime initial emotional behaviours remain elusive. We reveal here using gene-targeted mutations an essential role for ephrin-B3 ligand-like activity in the development of innate fear in the neonatal brain. We further demonstrate that ephrin-B3 controls axon targeting and coordinates spinogenesis and neuronal activity within the amygdala. The morphological and behavioural abnormalities in ephrin-B3 mutant mice are rescued by conditional knock-in of wild-type ephrin-B3 during the critical period when axon targeting and fear responses are initiated. Our results thus define a key axonal molecule that participates in the wiring of amygdala circuits and helps bring about fear emotion during the important adolescence period.
Zhu, X. N., Liu, X. D., Sun, S., Zhuang, H., Yang, J. Y., Henkemeyer, M., & Xu, N. J. (2016). Ephrin-B3 coordinates timed axon targeting and amygdala spinogenesis for innate fear behaviour. Nature Communications, 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms11096