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Dev Biol. 2008 Jul 15;319(2):179-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.03.036. Epub 2008 Apr 8.

Conditional deletion of Hand2 reveals critical functions in neurogenesis and cell type-specific gene expression for development of neural crest-derived noradrenergic sympathetic ganglion neurons.

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Department of Neurosciences, Program in Neurosciences and Degenerative Disease, University of Toledo Health Sciences Center, Toledo, OH 43614, USA.


Neural crest-derived structures that depend critically upon expression of the basic helix-loop-helix DNA binding protein Hand2 for normal development include craniofacial cartilage and bone, the outflow tract of the heart, cardiac cushion, and noradrenergic sympathetic ganglion neurons. Loss of Hand2 is embryonic lethal by E9.5, obviating a genetic analysis of its in-vivo function. We have overcome this difficulty by specific deletion of Hand2 in neural crest-derived cells by crossing our line of floxed Hand2 mice with Wnt1-Cre transgenic mice. Our analysis of Hand2 knock-out in neural crest-derived cells reveals effects on development in all neural crest-derived structures where Hand2 is expressed. In the autonomic nervous system, conditional disruption of Hand2 results in a significant and progressive loss of neurons as well as a significant loss of TH expression. Hand2 affects generation of the neural precursor pool of cells by affecting both the proliferative capacity of the progenitors as well as affecting expression of Phox2a and Gata3, DNA binding proteins important for the cell autonomous development of noradrenergic neurons. Our data suggest that Hand2 is a multifunctional DNA binding protein affecting differentiation and cell type-specific gene expression in neural crest-derived noradrenergic sympathetic ganglion neurons. Hand2 has a pivotal function in a non-linear cross-regulatory network of DNA binding proteins that affect cell autonomous control of differentiation and cell type-specific gene expression.

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