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A Novel Approach to Selectively Target Neuronal Subpopulations Reveals Genetic Pathways That Regulate Tangential Migration in the Vertebrate Hindbrain

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002099
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Fate Determination
  • Embryology
  • Molecular Development
  • Pattern Formation
  • Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Axon Guidance
  • Neural Circuit Formation


Vertebrate genes often play functionally distinct roles in different subsets of cells; however, tools to study the cell-specific function of gene products are poorly developed. Therefore, we have established a novel mouse model that enables the visualization and manipulation of defined subpopulations of neurons. To demonstrate the power of our system, we dissected genetic cascades in which Pax6 is central to control tangentially migrating neurons of the mouse brainstem. Several Pax6 downstream genes were identified and their function was analyzed by over-expression and knock-down experiments. One of these, Pou4f2, induces a prolonged midline arrest of growth cones to influence the proportion of ipsilaterally versus contralaterally settling neurons. These results demonstrate that our approach serves as a versatile tool to study the function of genes involved in cell migration, axonal pathfinding, and patterning processes. Our model will also serve as a general tool to specifically over-express any gene in a defined subpopulation of neurons and should easily be adapted to a wide range of applications.

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