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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;628:42-56. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-78261-4_3.

Dorsoventral patterning of the brain: a comparative approach.

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Institute of Genetics, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.


Development of the central nervous system (CNS) involves the transformation of a two-dimensional epithelial sheet of uniform ectodermal cells, the neuroectoderm, into a highly complex three-dimensional structure consisting of a huge variety of different neural cell types. Characteristic numbers of each cell type become arranged in reproducible spatial patterns, which is a prerequisite for the establishment of specific functional contacts. Specification of cell fate and regional patterning critical depends on positional information conferred to neural stem cells early in the neuroectoderm. This chapter compares recent findings on mechanisms that control the specification of cell fates along the dorsoventral axis during embryonic development of the CNS in Drosophila andvertebrates. Despite the clear structural differences in the organization of the CNS in arthropods and vertebrates, corresponding domains within the developing brain and truncal nervous system express a conserved set of columnar genes (msh/Msx, ind/Gsh, vnd/Nkx) involved in dorsoventral regionalization. In both Drosophila and mouse the expression of these genes exhibits distinct differences between the cephalic and truncal part of the CNS. Remarkably, not only the expression of columnar genes shows striking parallels between both species, but to some extent also their genetic interactions, suggesting an evolutionary conservation of key regulators ofdorsoventral patterning in the brain in terms of expression and function.

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