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Development. 2007 Apr;134(8):1617-29. Epub 2007 Mar 7.

Combinatorial actions of patterning and HLH transcription factors in the spatiotemporal control of neurogenesis and gliogenesis in the developing spinal cord.

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  • 1Division of Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Research Foundation, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.

Abstract

During development, the three major neural cell lineages, neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, differentiate in specific temporal orders at topologically defined positions. How the timing and position of their generation are coordinately regulated remains poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence that the transcription factors Pax6, Olig2 and Nkx2.2 (Nkx2-2), which define the positional identity of multipotent progenitors early in development, also play crucial roles in controlling the timing of neurogenesis and gliogenesis in the developing ventral spinal cord. We show that each of these factors has a unique ability to either enhance or inhibit the activities of the proneural helix-loop-helix (HLH) factors Ngn1 (Neurog1), Ngn2 (Neurog2), Ngn3 (Neurog3) and Mash1 (Ascl1), and the inhibitory HLH factors Id1 and Hes1, thereby regulating both the timing of differentiation of multipotent progenitors and their fate. Consistent with this, dynamic changes in their co-expression pattern in vivo are closely correlated to stage- and domain-specific generation of three neural cell lineages. We also show that genetic manipulations of their temporal expression patterns in mice alter the timing of differentiation of neurons and glia. We propose a molecular code model whereby the combinatorial actions of two classes of transcription factors coordinately regulate the domain-specific temporal sequence of neurogenesis and gliogenesis in the developing spinal cord.

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