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Neuron. 1997 Mar;18(3):411-23.

Defects in sensory and autonomic ganglia and absence of locus coeruleus in mice deficient for the homeobox gene Phox2a.

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Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille, CNRS/INSERM/Université de la Mediterranée, France.


Phox2a is a vertebrate homeodomain protein expressed in subsets of differentiating neurons. Here, we show that it is essential for proper development of the locus coeruleus, a subset of sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglia and the VIIth, IXth, and Xth cranial sensory ganglia. In the sensory ganglia, we have identified two differentiation blocks in Phox2a-/- mice. First, the transient expression of dopamine-beta-hydroxylase in neuroblasts is abolished, providing evidence that Phox2a controls noradrenergic traits in vivo. Second, the expression of the GDNF receptor subunit Ret is dramatically reduced, and there is a massive increase in apoptosis of ganglion cells, which are known to depend on GDNF in vivo. Therefore, Phox2a appears to regulate conventional differentiation traits and the ability of neurons to respond to essential survival factors.

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