Mechanisms and molecules in motor neuron specification and axon pathfinding

Mechanisms and molecules in motor neuron specification and axon pathfinding The vertebrate nervous system performs the most complex functions of any organ system. This feat is mediated by dedicated assemblies of neurons that must be precisely connected to one another and to peripheral tissues during embryonic development. Motor neurons, which innervate muscle and regulate autonomic functions, form an integral part of this neural circuitry. The first part of this review describes the remarkable progress in our understanding of motor neuron differentiation, which is arguably the best understood model of neuronal differentiation to date. During development, the coordinate actions of inductive signals from adjacent non‐neural tissues initiate the differentiation of distinct motor neuron subclasses, with specific projection patterns, at stereotypical locations within the neural tube. Underlying this specialisation is the expression of specific homeodomain proteins, which act combinatorially to confer motor neurons with both their generic and subtype‐specific properties. Ensuring that specific motor neuron subtypes innervate the correct target structure, however, requires precise motor axon guidance mechanisms. The second half of this review focuses on how distinct motor neuron subtypes pursue highly specific projection patterns by responding differentially to spatially discrete attractive and repulsive molecular cues. The tight link between motor neuron specification and axon pathfinding appears to be established by the dominant role of homeodomain proteins in dictating the ways that navigating motor axons interpret the plethora of guidance cues impinging on growth cones. BioEssays 23:582–595, 2001. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png BioEssays Wiley

Mechanisms and molecules in motor neuron specification and axon pathfinding

BioEssays, Volume 23 (7) – Jul 1, 2001

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISSN
0265-9247
eISSN
1521-1878
DOI
10.1002/bies.1084
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The vertebrate nervous system performs the most complex functions of any organ system. This feat is mediated by dedicated assemblies of neurons that must be precisely connected to one another and to peripheral tissues during embryonic development. Motor neurons, which innervate muscle and regulate autonomic functions, form an integral part of this neural circuitry. The first part of this review describes the remarkable progress in our understanding of motor neuron differentiation, which is arguably the best understood model of neuronal differentiation to date. During development, the coordinate actions of inductive signals from adjacent non‐neural tissues initiate the differentiation of distinct motor neuron subclasses, with specific projection patterns, at stereotypical locations within the neural tube. Underlying this specialisation is the expression of specific homeodomain proteins, which act combinatorially to confer motor neurons with both their generic and subtype‐specific properties. Ensuring that specific motor neuron subtypes innervate the correct target structure, however, requires precise motor axon guidance mechanisms. The second half of this review focuses on how distinct motor neuron subtypes pursue highly specific projection patterns by responding differentially to spatially discrete attractive and repulsive molecular cues. The tight link between motor neuron specification and axon pathfinding appears to be established by the dominant role of homeodomain proteins in dictating the ways that navigating motor axons interpret the plethora of guidance cues impinging on growth cones. BioEssays 23:582–595, 2001. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Journal

BioEssaysWiley

Published: Jul 1, 2001

References

  • Growth cone guidance: first steps towards a deeper understanding
    Mueller, Mueller
  • The development of motor projection patterns in the chick hind limb
    Landmesser, Landmesser
  • The distribution of motoneurones supplying chick hind limb muscles
    Landmesser, Landmesser
  • Differential expression of LIM homeobox genes among motor neuron subpopulations in the developing chick brain stem
    Varela‐Echavarria, Varela‐Echavarria; Pfaff, Pfaff; Guthrie, Guthrie
  • Role of the target in the pathfinding of facial visceral motor axons
    Jacob, Jacob; Tiveron, Tiveron; Brunet, Brunet; Guthrie, Guthrie
  • Hox genes and regionalization of the nervous system
    Keynes, Keynes; Krumlauf, Krumlauf
  • Independent assignment of antero‐posterior and dorso‐ventral positional values in the developing chick hindbrain
    Simon, Simon; Hornbruch, Hornbruch; Lumsden, Lumsden
  • Slit proteins: key regulators of axon guidance, axonal branching, and cell migration
    Brose, Brose; Tessier‐Lavigne, Tessier‐Lavigne
  • The ephrins and Eph receptors in neural development
    Flanagan, Flanagan; Vanderhaeghen, Vanderhaeghen
  • Cranial motor axons respond differently to the floor plate and sensory ganglia in collagen gel co‐cultures
    Tucker, Tucker; Lumsden, Lumsden; Guthrie, Guthrie
  • Role of neurotrophic factors in neuronal development
    Henderson, Henderson
  • Expression of the Tyro4/Mek4/Cek4 gene specifically marks a subset of embryonic motor neurons and their muscle targets
    Kilpatrick, Kilpatrick; Brown, Brown; Lai, Lai; Gassmann, Gassmann; Goulding, Goulding; Lemke, Lemke

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