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Annu Rev Neurosci. 1999;22:541-66.

Cellular and molecular determinants of sympathetic neuron development.

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


The development of the sympathetic nervous system can be divided into three overlapping stages. First, the precursors of sympathetic neurons arise from undifferentiated neural crest cells that migrate ventrally, aggregate adjacent to the dorsal aorta, and ultimately differentiate into catecholaminergic neurons. Second, cell number is refined during a period of cell death when neurotrophic factors determine the number of neuronal precursors and neurons that survive. The final stage of sympathetic development is the establishment and maturation of synaptic connections, which for sympathetic neurons can include alterations in neurotransmitter phenotype. Considerable progress has been made recently in elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that direct each of these developmental decisions. We review the current understanding of each of these, focusing primarily on events in the peripheral nervous system of rodents.

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