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Genes Dev. 2001 Oct 1;15(19):2533-45.

Formation of brainstem (nor)adrenergic centers and first-order relay visceral sensory neurons is dependent on homeodomain protein Rnx/Tlx3.

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  • 1The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Brainstem visceral sensory and (nor)adrenergic neurons play crucial roles in modulating cardiovascular and respiratory functions. The origins and formation of these neurons are poorly understood. Here we show that these two classes of neurons are derived from Mash1-positive precursor cells, and can be prospectively identified by combinatorial expression of two homeobox genes, Rnx and Phox2 (Phox2a or Phox2b). It was previously shown that Rnx-deficient mice die from respiratory failure. Here we show that Rnx function is required for formation of first-order relay visceral sensory neurons in the brainstem. In addition, as in Phox2b-deficient mice, the development of most (nor)adrenergic centers is compromised in Rnx mutants. We also provide genetic evidence to show that Rnx and Phox2 proteins may function independently to specify the (nor)adrenergic phenotype. Our studies reveal a surprising ontogenetic relationship between relay visceral sensory and (nor)adrenergic neurons, and suggest that it may be a common theme in the developing nervous system that the same set of transcriptional regulators is associated with formation of multiple components within a neuronal network.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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