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Development. 2005 Dec;132(24):5527-37. Epub 2005 Nov 16.

Sim1 and Sim2 are required for the correct targeting of mammillary body axons.

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Research Center, Hôpital Sainte-Justine, 3175 Cote Ste-Catherine, Montréal, Quebec H3T 1C5, Canada.


The mammillary body (MB), and its axonal projections to the thalamus (mammillothalamic tract, MTT) and the tegmentum (mammillotegmental tract, MTEG), are components of a circuit involved in spatial learning. The bHLH-PAS transcription factors SIM1 and SIM2 are co-expressed in the developing MB. We have found that MB neurons are generated and that they survive at least until E18.5 in embryos lacking both Sim1 and Sim2 (Sim1(-/-);Sim2(-/-)). However, the MTT and MTEG are histologically absent in Sim1(-/-);Sim2(-/-) embryos, and are reduced in embryos lacking Sim1 but bearing one or two copies of Sim2, indicating a contribution of the latter to the development of MB axons. We have generated, by homologous recombination, a null allele of Sim1 (Sim1(tlz)) in which the tau-lacZ fusion gene was introduced, allowing the staining of MB axons. Consistent with the histological studies, lacZ staining showed that the MTT/MTEG is barely detectable in Sim1(tlz/tlz);Sim2(+/-) and Sim1(tlz/tlz);Sim2(-/-) brains. Instead, MB axons are splayed and grow towards the midline. Slit1 and Slit2, which code for secreted molecules that induce the repulsion of ROBO1-producing axons, are expressed in the midline at the level of the MB, whereas Robo1 is expressed in the developing MB. The expression of Rig-1/Robo3, a negative regulator of Slit signalling, is upregulated in the prospective MB of Sim1/Sim2 double mutants, raising the possibility that the growth of mutant MB axons towards the midline is caused by a decreased sensitivity to SLIT. Finally, we found that Sim1 and Sim2 act along compensatory, but not hierarchical, pathways, suggesting that they play similar roles in vivo.

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