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Nat Neurosci. 2014 Jul;17(7):899-907. doi: 10.1038/nn.3731. Epub 2014 Jun 15.

Maintenance of postmitotic neuronal cell identity.

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Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University Medical Center, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York, New York, USA.


The identity of specific cell types in the nervous system is defined by the expression of neuron type-specific gene batteries. How the expression of such batteries is initiated during nervous system development has been under intensive study over the past few decades. However, comparatively little is known about how gene batteries that define the terminally differentiated state of a neuron type are maintained throughout the life of an animal. Here we provide an overview of studies in invertebrate and vertebrate model systems that have carved out the general and not commonly appreciated principle that neuronal identity is maintained in postmitotic neurons by the sustained, and often autoregulated, expression of the same transcription factors that initiate terminal differentiation in a developing organism. Disruption of postmitotic maintenance mechanisms may result in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions.

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