To elucidate the molecular basis of the specialization of cortical architectures, we searched for genes differentially expressed among neocortical areas of Old World monkeys by restriction landmark cDNA scanning . We found that mRNA of SLIT1, an axon guidance molecule, was enriched in the prefrontal cortex but with developmentally related changes. In situ hybridization analysis revealed that SLIT1 mRNA was mainly distributed in the middle layers of most cortical areas, robustly in the prefrontal cortex and faintly in primary sensory areas. The lowest expression was in the primary visual area. Analyses of other SLIT (SLIT2 and SLIT3) mRNAs showed preferential expression in the prefrontal cortex with a distinct laminar pattern. By contrast, the receptor Roundabout (ROBO1 and ROBO2) mRNAs were widely distributed throughout the cortex. Perinatally, SLIT1 mRNA was abundantly expressed in the cortex with modest area specificity. Downregulation of expression initially occurred in early sensory areas around postnatal day 60 and followed in the association areas. The prefrontal area–enriched SLIT1 mRNA expression results from a relatively greater attenuation of this expression in the other areas. These results suggest that its role is altered postnatally and that this is particularly important for prefrontal connectivity in the Old World monkey cortex.

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