The chicken spinal cord is an excellent model for the study of early neural development in vertebrates. However, the lack of robust, stable and versatile transgenic methods has limited the usefulness of chick embryos for the study of later neurodevelopmental events. Here we describe a new transgenic approach utilizing the PiggyBac (PB) transposon to facilitate analysis of late-stage neural development such as axon targeting and synaptic connection in the chicken embryo. Using PB transgenic approaches we achieved temporal and spatial regulation of transgene expression and performed stable RNA interference (RNAi). With these new capabilities, we mapped axon projection patterns of V2b subset of spinal interneurons and visualized maturation of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). Furthermore, PB-mediated RNAi in the chick recapitulated the phenotype of loss of agrin function in the mouse NMJ. The simplicity and versatility of PB-mediated transgenic strategies hold great promise for large-scale genetic analysis of neuronal connectivity in the chick.
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