Hindbrain neurons are organized into coherent subpopulations with characteristic projection patterns and functions. Many of these serve vital functions that have been conserved throughout the vertebrate radiation, but diversification to modified or highly specialized functions has also occurred. The differentiation of identifiable neuron groups in specific spatial domains must involve the regional expression of determinants within the hindbrain neuroepithelium. The Hox genes are involved in longitudinal regionalization of the neural tube, and their expression patterns in the hindbrain are closely related to the rhombomeres which partition the hindbrain into morphogenetic units. Hox gene expression also exhibits conserved patterning as well as phylogenetic variation. One plausible mechanism that may have contributed to evolutionary diversification in hindbrain neuron populations is therefore the emergence of species-specific differences in Hox gene expression. This article presents a comparative overview of the regional patterning of selected Hox genes and hindbrain neuron populations in several embryologically important species. Although tantalizing correlations exist, the relationship between Hox genes and neuronal patterning is complex, and complicated by dynamic features in each. Much more comparative and developmental data must be obtained before the link between Hox gene expression and hindbrain neuron patterning can be elucidated satisfactorily in an evolutionary context.
Brain Research Bulletin – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 2001
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