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J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 23;31(12):4444-55. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4616-10.2011.

Gata2 is required for migration and differentiation of retinorecipient neurons in the superior colliculus.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.


The superior colliculus (SC)/optic tectum of the dorsal mesencephalon plays a major role in responses to visual input, yet regulation of neuronal differentiation within this layered structure is only partially understood. Here, we show that the zinc finger transcription factor Gata2 is required for normal SC development. Starting at embryonic day 15 (E15) (corresponding to the times at which neurons of the outer and intermediate layers of the SC are generated), Gata2 is transiently expressed in the rat embryonic dorsal mesencephalon within a restricted region between proliferating cells of the ventricular zone and the deepest neuronal layers of the developing SC. The Gata2-positive cells are postmitotic and lack markers of differentiated neurons, but express markers for immature neuronal precursors including Ascl1 and Pax3/7. In utero electroporation with Gata2 small hairpin RNAs at E16 into cells along the dorsal mesencephalic ventricle interferes with their normal migration into the SC and maintains them in a state characterized by retention of Pax3 expression and the absence of mature neuronal markers. Collectively, these findings indicate that Gata2 plays a required role in the transition of postmitotic neuronal precursor cells of the retinorecipient layers of the SC into mature neurons and that loss of Gata2 arrests them at an intermediate stage of differentiation.

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