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Development. 1997 Oct;124(19):3693-702.

Role of Hoxa-2 in axon pathfinding and rostral hindbrain patterning.

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  • 1Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/ULP, Collège de France, CU de Strasbourg.


Segmentation plays an important role in neuronal diversification and organisation in the developing hindbrain. For instance, cranial nerve branchiomotor nuclei are organised segmentally within the basal plates of successive pairs of rhombomeres. To reach their targets, motor axons follow highly stereotyped pathways exiting the hindbrain only via specific exit points in the even-numbered rhombomeres. Hox genes are good candidates for controlling this pathfinding, since they are segmentally expressed and involved in rhombomeric patterning. Here we report that in Hoxa-2(-/-) embryos, the segmental identities of rhombomere (r) 2 and r3 are molecularly as well as anatomically altered. Cellular analysis by retrograde dye labelling reveals that r2 and r3 trigeminal motor axons turn caudally and exit the hindbrain from the r4 facial nerve exit point and not from their normal exit point in r2. Furthermore, dorsal r2-r3 patterning is affected, with loss of cochlear nuclei and enlargement of the lateral part of the cerebellum. These results point to a novel role for Hoxa-2 in the control of r2-r3 motor axon guidance, and also suggest that its absence may lead to homeotic changes in the alar plates of these rhombomeres.

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