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Genes Dev. 2000 Jul 15;14(14):1824-34.

Novel gene expressed in nasal region influences outgrowth of olfactory axons and migration of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) neurons.

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Cellular and Developmental Neurobiology Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Although a variety of cues have been implicated in axonal targeting during embryogenesis and regeneration, the precise mechanisms guiding olfactory axons remain unclear. Appropriate olfactory axon pathfinding is essential for functional chemoreceptive and pheromone receptive systems. Olfactory axon pathfinding is also necessary for establishment of the neuroendocrine LHRH system, cells critical for reproductive function. LHRH cells exhibit neurophilic migration moving from the nasal region along olfactory axons into the brain. Factors involved in the migration of these neuroendocrine cells are as yet unresolved. We report identification of a novel factor termed nasal embryonic LHRH factor (NELF) that was discovered in a differential screen of migrating versus nonmigrating primary LHRH neurons. NELF is expressed in PNS and CNS tissues during embryonic development, including olfactory sensory cells and LHRH cells. NELF antisense experiments indicate that a reduction in NELF expression decreases olfactory axon outgrowth and the number of LHRH neurons that migrate out of the nasal tissue. These results demonstrate that NELF plays a role as a common guidance molecule for olfactory axon projections and subsequently, either directly or indirectly, in the neurophilic migration of LHRH cells.

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