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PLoS One. 2019 Mar 19;14(3):e0214063. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214063. eCollection 2019.

Posterior axis formation requires Dlx5/Dlx6 expression at the neural plate border.

Author information

Département Adaptations du Vivant, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 7221, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.
Department of Biology, Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Neural tube defects (NTDs), one of the most common birth defects in human, present a multifactorial etiology with a poorly defined genetic component. The Dlx5 and Dlx6 bigenic cluster encodes two evolutionary conserved homeodomain transcription factors, which are necessary for proper vertebrate development. It has been shown that Dlx5/6 genes are essential for anterior neural tube closure, however their role in the formation of the posterior structures has never been described. Here, we show that Dlx5/6 expression is required during vertebrate posterior axis formation. Dlx5 presents a similar expression pattern in neural plate border cells during posterior neurulation of zebrafish and mouse. Dlx5/6-inactivation in the mouse results in a phenotype reminiscent of NTDs characterized by open thoracic and lumbar vertebral arches and failure of epaxial muscle formation at the dorsal midline. The dlx5a/6a zebrafish morphants present posterior NTDs associated with abnormal delamination of neural crest cells showing altered expression of cell adhesion molecules and defects of motoneuronal development. Our findings provide new molecular leads to decipher the mechanisms of vertebrate posterior neurulation and might help to gather a better understanding of human congenital NTDs etiology.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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