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Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 1996 Mar;36(2):300-8.

Early ontogeny of catecholaminergic cell lineage in brain and peripheral neurons monitored by tyrosine hydroxylase-lacZ transgene.

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Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, Cornell University Medical College, W.M. Burke Medical Research Institute, White Plains, NY 10605, USA.


As the first and rate limiting enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway for catecholamine (CA) neurotransmitters, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) is a specific phenotypic marker for CA cells in the central and peripheral nervous systems of adult animals. During embryogenesis, TH expression appears permanently within cells destined to be CA-secreting during adult life, and transiently in several cell types that will not express TH in adulthood. In this study, we examined the early ontogeny of TH expression in transgenic mouse embryos by following the expression of a lacZ reporter, driven by the tissue-specific promoter of the rat TH gene. The lacZ reporter product, beta-galactosidase (beta-gal), visualized by X-gal staining, first became apparent in primordia of sensory ganglia serving the glossopharyngeal (IX) and vagal (X) cranial nerves at embryonic day (E)9.0. Between E9.5 and E10.5, beta-gal expression extended to the remaining cranial sensory ganglia serving the trigeminal (V) and facial (VII) nerves, dorsal root ganglia, ventrolateral neural tube and sympathetic ganglion primordia. During that same period, the first beta-gal expression in the embryonic brain also appeared within distinct regions, such as the ventral prosencephalon, the ventral and dorsolateral mesencephalon and the rostral and caudal rhombencephalon. The level of beta-gal expression in all these tissues decreased at E13.5, but a distinct adult pattern of beta-gal expression started to emerge in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area in the central nervous system and the adrenal medulla in the periphery. Our findings indicate that the proximal 9.0 kb of the 5' promoter region of the rat TH gene encodes sufficient information to direct development of the appropriate catecholaminergic lineage cells in the central and most peripheral nervous systems during embryogenesis.

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