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Neuron. 2002 Aug 29;35(5):877-92.

ETS gene Pea3 controls the central position and terminal arborization of specific motor neuron pools.

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INSERM U.382, Developmental Biology Institute of Marseille, CNRS-INSERM-Univ. Mediterranee, Campus de Luminy, Case 907, Marseille, France.


The projection of developing axons to their targets is a crucial step in the assembly of neuronal circuits. In the spinal cord, the differentiation of specific motor neuron pools is associated with the expression of ETS class transcription factors, notably PEA3 and ER81. Their initial expression coincides with the arrival of motor axons in the vicinity of muscle targets and depends on limb-derived signals. We show that in Pea3 mutant mice, the axons of specific motor neuron pools fail to branch normally within their target muscles, and the cell bodies of these motor neurons are mispositioned within the spinal cord. Thus, the induction of an intrinsic program of ETS gene expression by peripheral signals is required to coordinate the central position and terminal arborization of specific sets of spinal motor neurons.

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