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Development. 2013 Apr;140(7):1594-604. doi: 10.1242/dev.090845.

Floor plate-derived sonic hedgehog regulates glial and ependymal cell fates in the developing spinal cord.

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Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, UMDNJ/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 675 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ 08840, USA.


Cell fate specification in the CNS is controlled by the secreted morphogen sonic hedgehog (Shh). At spinal cord levels, Shh produced by both the notochord and floor plate (FP) diffuses dorsally to organize patterned gene expression in dividing neural and glial progenitors. Despite the fact that two discrete sources of Shh are involved in this process, the individual contribution of the FP, the only intrinsic source of Shh throughout both neurogenesis and gliogenesis, has not been clearly defined. Here, we have used conditional mutagenesis approaches in mice to selectively inactivate Shh in the FP (Shh(FP)) while allowing expression to persist in the notochord, which underlies the neural tube during neurogenesis but not gliogenesis. We also inactivated Smo, the common Hh receptor, in neural tube progenitors. Our findings confirm and extend prior studies suggesting an important requirement for Shh(FP) in specifying oligodendrocyte cell fates via repression of Gli3 in progenitors. Our studies also uncover a connection between embryonic Shh signaling and astrocyte-mediated reactive gliosis in adults, raising the possibility that this pathway is involved in the development of the most common cell type in the CNS. Finally, we find that intrinsic spinal cord Shh signaling is required for the proper formation of the ependymal zone, the epithelial cell lining of the central canal that is also an adult stem cell niche. Together, our studies identify a crucial late embryonic role for Shh(FP) in regulating the specification and differentiation of glial and epithelial cells in the mouse spinal cord.

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