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Mapping sensory circuits by anterograde transsynaptic transfer of recombinant rabies virus

Zampieri, N;Jessell, TM;Murray, AJ;

Primary sensory neurons convey information from the external world to relay circuits within the CNS, but the identity and organization of the neurons that process incoming sensory information remains sketchy. Within the CNS, viral tracing techniques that rely on retrograde transsynaptic transfer provide a powerful tool for delineating circuit organization. Viral tracing of the circuits engaged by primary sensory neurons has, however, been hampered by the absence of a genetically tractable anterograde transfer system. In this study, we demonstrate that rabies virus can infect sensory neurons in the somatosensory system, is subject to anterograde transsynaptic transfer from primary sensory to spinal target neurons, and can delineate output connectivity with third-order neurons. Anterograde transsynaptic transfer is a feature shared by other classes of primary sensory neurons, permitting the identification and potentially the manipulation of neural circuits processing sensory feedback within the mammalian CNS.