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Mol Neurobiol. 1999 Jun;19(3):205-28.

Molecular mechanisms regulating motor neuron development and degeneration.

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Development and Neurobiology Group, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


Motor neurons are a well-defined, although heterogeneous group of cells responsible for transmitting information from the central nervous system to the locomotor system. Spinal motor neurons are specified by soluble factors produced by structures adjacent to the primordial spinal cord, signaling through homeodomain proteins. Axonal pathfinding is regulated by cell-surface receptors that interact with extracellular ligands and once synaptic connections have formed, the survival of the somatic motor neuron is dependent on the provision of target-derived growth factors, although nontarget-derived factors, produced by either astrocytes or Schwann cells, are also potentially implicated. Somatic motor neuron degeneration leads to profound disability, and multiple pathogenetic mechanisms including aberrant growth factor signaling, abnormal neurofilament accumulation, excitotoxicity, and autoimmunity have been postulated to be responsible. Even when specific deficits have been identified, for example, mutations of the superoxide dismutase-1 gene in familial amyotrophic sclerosis and polyglutamine expansion of the androgen receptor in spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, the mechanisms by which somatic motor neuronal degeneration occurs remain unclear. In order to treat motor system degeneration effectively, we will need to understand these mechanisms more thoroughly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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