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Neuron. 2004 Aug 5;43(3):359-72.

EMX2 regulates sizes and positioning of the primary sensory and motor areas in neocortex by direct specification of cortical progenitors.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, The Salk Institute, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Genetic studies of neocortical area patterning are limited, because mice deficient for candidate regulatory genes die before areas emerge and have other complicating issues. To define roles for the homeodomain transcription factor EMX2, we engineered nestin-Emx2 transgenic mice that overexpress Emx2 in cortical progenitors coincident with expression of endogenous Emx2 and survive postnatally. Cortical size, lamination, thalamus, and thalamocortical pathfinding are normal in homozygous nestin-Emx2 mice. However, primary sensory and motor areas are disproportionately altered in size and shift rostrolaterally. Heterozygous transgenics have similar but smaller changes. Opposite changes are found in heterozygous Emx2 knockout mice. Fgf8 expression in the commissural plate of nestin-Emx2 mice is indistinguishable from wild-type, but Pax6 expression is downregulated in rostral cortical progenitors, suggesting that EMX2 repression of PAX6 specification of rostral identities contributes to reduced rostral areas. We conclude that EMX2 levels in cortical progenitors disproportionately specify sizes and positions of primary cortical areas.

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