Proteomic analysis illuminates a novel structural definition of the claustrum and insula.
The claustrum is a prominent but ill-defined forebrain structure that has been suggested to integrate multisensory information and perhaps transform percepts into consciousness. The claustrum’s shape and vague borders have hampered experimental assessment of its functions. We used matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-imaging mass spectrometry to reveal a novel protein marker, G-protein gamma2 subunit (Gng2), which is enriched in the claustrum but not adjacent structures of the rat forebrain. The spatial pattern of Gng2 expression suggests key differences from commonly held views of the claustrum’s structure. Using anatomical methods, we found that the rat claustrum is present only at striatal levels of the telencephalon and does not extend to frontal cortical territories. Moreover, the claustrum is surrounded on all sides by layer VI insular cortex cells in both the rat and primate. Using these defining characteristics of the claustrum, we found that the claustrum projects to cortical but not to subcortical sites. The definition of the claustrum as a cortical site is considered. The identification of a claustrum-specific protein opens the door to selective molecular lesions and the subsequent evaluation of the role of the claustrum in cognition.