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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008 Feb;18(1):36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2008.04.002. Epub 2008 Jun 2.

Transcriptional mechanisms controlling motor neuron diversity and connectivity.

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Biozentrum, Department of Cell Biology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.


The control of movement relies on the precision with which motor circuits are assembled during development. Spinal motor neurons (MNs) provide the trigger to signal the appropriate sequence of muscle contractions and initiate movement. This task is accommodated by the diversification of MNs into discrete subpopulations, each of which acquires precise axonal trajectories and central connectivity patterns. An upstream Hox factor-based regulatory network in MNs defines their competence to deploy downstream programs including the expression of Nkx and ETS transcription factors. These interactive transcriptional programs coordinate MN differentiation and connectivity, defining a sophisticated roadmap of motor circuit assembly in the spinal cord. Similar principles using modular interaction of transcriptional programs to control neuronal diversification and circuit connectivity are likely to act in other CNS circuits.

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