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PLoS Biol. 2008 Jun 10;6(6):e142. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060142.

Hox paralog group 2 genes control the migration of mouse pontine neurons through slit-robo signaling.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/ULP, UMR 7104, CU de Strasbourg, Illkirch, France.


The pontine neurons (PN) represent a major source of mossy fiber projections to the cerebellum. During mouse hindbrain development, PN migrate tangentially and sequentially along both the anteroposterior (AP) and dorsoventral (DV) axes. Unlike DV migration, which is controlled by the Netrin-1/Dcc attractive pathway, little is known about the molecular mechanisms guiding PN migration along the AP axis. Here, we show that Hoxa2 and Hoxb2 are required both intrinsically and extrinsically to maintain normal AP migration of subsets of PN, by preventing their premature ventral attraction towards the midline. Moreover, the migration defects observed in Hoxa2 and Hoxb2 mutant mice were phenocopied in compound Robo1;Robo2, Slit1;Slit2, and Robo2;Slit2 knockout animals, indicating that these guidance molecules act downstream of Hox genes to control PN migration. Indeed, using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we further demonstrated that Robo2 is a direct target of Hoxa2 in vivo and that maintenance of high Robo and Slit expression levels was impaired in Hoxa2 mutant mice. Lastly, the analysis of Phox2b-deficient mice indicated that the facial motor nucleus is a major Slit signaling source required to prevent premature ventral migration of PN. These findings provide novel insights into the molecular control of neuronal migration from transcription factor to regulation of guidance receptor and ligand expression. Specifically, they address the question of how exposure to multiple guidance cues along the AP and DV axes is regulated at the transcriptional level and in turn translated into stereotyped migratory responses during tangential migration of neurons in the developing mammalian brain.

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