[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The establishment of the mid-hindbrain region in vertebrates is mediated by the isthmic organizer, an embryonic secondary organizer characterized by a well-defined pattern of locally restricted gene expression domains with sharply delimited boundaries. While the function of the isthmic organizer at the mid-hindbrain boundary has been subject to extensive experimental studies, it remains unclear how this well-defined spatial gene expression pattern, which is essential for proper isthmic organizer function, is established during vertebrate development. Because the secreted Wnt1 protein plays a prominent role in isthmic organizer function, we focused in particular on the refinement of Wnt1 gene expression in this context.
We analyzed the dynamics of the corresponding murine gene regulatory network and the related, diffusive signaling proteins using a macroscopic model for the biological two-scale signaling process. Despite the discontinuity arising from the sharp gene expression domain boundaries, we proved the existence of unique, positive solutions for the partial differential equation system. This enabled the numerically and analytically analysis of the formation and stability of the expression pattern. Notably, the calculated expression domain of Wnt1 has no sharp boundary in contrast to experimental evidence. We subsequently propose a post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism for Wnt1 miRNAs which yields the observed sharp expression domain boundaries. We established a list of candidate miRNAs and confirmed their expression pattern by radioactive in situ hybridization. The miRNA miR-709 was identified as a potential regulator of Wnt1 mRNA, which was validated by luciferase sensor assays.
In summary, our theoretical analysis of the gene expression pattern induction at the mid-hindbrain boundary revealed the need to extend the model by an additional Wnt1 regulation. The developed macroscopic model of a two-scale process facilitate the stringent analysis of other morphogen-based patterning processes.
BMC Systems Biology 06/2013; 7(1):48. · 2.98 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Understanding the molecular basis underlying the neurogenesis of mesencephalic-diencephalic Dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons is a major task fueled by their relevance in controlling locomotor activity and emotion and their involvement in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. Increasing evidence suggests that mdDA neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) represent two main distinct neuronal populations, which, in turn, include specific neuronal subsets. Relevant studies provided important results on mdDA neurogenesis, but, nevertheless, have not yet clarified how the identity of mdDA neuronal subtypes is established and, in particular, whether neurogenic factors may direct progenitors towards the differentiation of specific mdDA neuronal subclasses. The transcription factor Otx2 is required for the neurogenesis of mesencephalic DA (mesDA) neurons and to control neuron subtype identity and sensitivity to the MPTP neurotoxin in the adult VTA. Here we studied whether Otx2 is required in mdDA progenitors for the generation of specific mdDA neuronal subtypes. We found that although expressed in virtually all mdDA progenitors, Otx2 is required selectively for the differentiation of VTA neuronal subtypes expressing Ahd2 and/or Calb but not for those co-expressing Girk2 and glyco-Dat. Moreover, mild over-expression of Otx2 in SNpc progenitors and neurons is sufficient to rescue En1 haploinsufficiency-dependent defects, such as progressive loss and increased MPTP sensitivity of SNpc neurons. Collectively, these data suggest that mdDA progenitors exhibit differential sensitivity to Otx2, which selectively influences the generation of a large and specific subset of VTA neurons. In addition, these data suggest that Otx2 and En1 may share similar properties and control survival and vulnerability to MPTP neurotoxin respectively in VTA and SNpc.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs have emerged as key posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression during vertebrate development. We show that the miR-200 family plays a crucial role for the proper generation and survival of ventral neuronal populations in the murine midbrain/hindbrain region, including midbrain dopaminergic neurons, by directly targeting the pluripotency factor Sox2 and the cell-cycle regulator E2F3 in neural stem/progenitor cells. The lack of a negative regulation of Sox2 and E2F3 by miR-200 in conditional Dicer1 mutants (En1(+/Cre); Dicer1(flox/flox) mice) and after miR-200 knockdown in vitro leads to a strongly reduced cell-cycle exit and neuronal differentiation of ventral midbrain/hindbrain (vMH) neural progenitors, whereas the opposite effect is seen after miR-200 overexpression in primary vMH cells. Expression of miR-200 is in turn directly regulated by Sox2 and E2F3, thereby establishing a unilateral negative feedback loop required for the cell-cycle exit and neuronal differentiation of neural stem/progenitor cells. Our findings suggest that the posttranscriptional regulation of Sox2 and E2F3 by miR-200 family members might be a general mechanism to control the transition from a pluripotent/multipotent stem/progenitor cell to a postmitotic and more differentiated cell.
Journal of Neuroscience 09/2012; 32(38):13292-13308. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pitx3 is a critical homeodomain transcription factor for the proper development and survival of mesodiencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons in mammals. Several variants of this gene have been associated with human Parkinson's disease (PD), and lack of Pitx3 in mice causes the preferential loss of substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) mdDA neurons that are most affected in PD. It is currently unclear how Pitx3 activity promotes the survival of SNc mdDA neurons and which factors act upstream and downstream of Pitx3 in this context. Here we show that a transient expression of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in the murine ventral midbrain (VM) induces transcription of Pitx3 via NF-κB-mediated signaling, and that Pitx3 is in turn required for activating the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in a rostrolateral (SNc) mdDA neuron subpopulation during embryogenesis. The loss of BDNF expression correlates with the increased apoptotic cell death of this mdDA neuronal subpopulation in Pitx3(-/-) mice, whereas treatment of VM cell cultures with BDNF augments the survival of the Pitx3(-/-) mdDA neurons. Most importantly, only BDNF but not GDNF protects mdDA neurons against 6-hydroxydopamine-induced cell death in the absence of Pitx3. As the feedforward regulation of GDNF, Pitx3, and BDNF expression also persists in the adult rodent brain, our data suggest that the disruption of the regulatory interaction between these three factors contributes to the loss of mdDA neurons in Pitx3(-/-) mutant mice and perhaps also in human PD.
Journal of Neuroscience 09/2011; 31(36):12802-15. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The balanced proliferation and cell cycle exit of neural progenitors, by generating the appropriate amount of postmitotic progeny at the correct time and in the proper location, is required for the establishment of the highly ordered structure of the adult brain. Little is known about the extrinsic signals regulating these processes, particularly in the midbrain. Fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) 15, the mouse ortholog of FGF19 and member of an atypical Fgf subfamily, is prominently expressed in the dorsolateral midbrain of the midgestational mouse embryo. In the absence of Fgf15, dorsal midbrain neural progenitors fail to exit the cell cycle and to generate the proper amount of postmitotic neurons. We show here that this is due to the altered expression of inhibitory/neurogenic and proneural/neuronal differentiation helix-loop-helix transcription factor (TF) genes. The expression of Id1, Id3, and Hes5 was strongly increased and ectopically expanded, whereas the expression of Ascl1 (Mash1), Neurog1 (Ngn1) and Neurog2 (Ngn2) was strongly decreased and transcription of Neurod1 (NeuroD) was completely abolished in the dorsolateral midbrain of Fgf15(-/-) mice. These abnormalities were not caused by the mis-expression of cell cycle regulatory proteins such as cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors or retinoblastoma proteins. Furthermore, human FGF19 promotes cell cycle exit of murine dorsal neural progenitors in vitro. Therefore, our data suggest that Fgf15 is a crucial signaling molecule regulating the postmitotic transition of dorsal neural progenitors and thus the initiation and proper progression of dorsal midbrain neurogenesis in the mouse, by controlling the expression of neurogenic and proneural TFs.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mesencephalic-diencephalic dopaminergic neurons control locomotor activity and emotion and are affected in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. The homeoprotein Otx2 is restricted to ventral tegmental area (VTA) neurons that are prevalently complementary to those expressing Girk2 and glycosylated active form of the dopamine transporter (Dat). High levels of glycosylated Dat mark neurons with efficient dopamine uptake and pronounced vulnerability to Parkinsonian degeneration. We found that Otx2 controls neuron subtype identity by antagonizing molecular and functional features of dorsal-lateral VTA, such as Girk2 and Dat expression. Otx2 limited the number of VTA neurons with efficient dopamine uptake and conferred resistance to the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine-HCl (MPTP) neurotoxin. Ectopic Otx2 expression also provided neurons of the substantia nigra with efficient neuroprotection to MPTP. These findings indicate that Otx2 is required to specify neuron subtype identity in VTA and may antagonize vulnerability to the Parkinsonian toxin MPTP.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cell-based therapies for Parkinson's disease (PD) using neural stem cells to replace the lost dopamine neurons is currently an intense area of research. In this study we have evaluated the restorative potential of ectopic dopaminergic (DA) neurons derived from the rostral hindbrain (RH) of En1(+/Otx2lacZ) transgenic mice. The genetic modification of the DA progenitor domain in the En1(+/Otx2lacZ) mice is a gain of function, resulting in the enlargement of the area containing DA neurons, as well as an increase in their absolute number in the midbrain/hindbrain region. Amphetamine-induced rotation performed after cell transplantation into the unilaterally 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rat striatum revealed that animals with transgenic RH-derived DA grafts exhibited functional recovery similar to transgenic and wild-type ventral mesencephalon (VM)-derived DA grafts. Morphological analyses revealed equivalent numbers of surviving DA neurons from both homotopic VM- and ectopic RH-derived grafts from transgenic donors with low numbers of surviving serotonergic (5-HT) neurons. Conversely, grafts derived from wild-type donors contained predominantly surviving DA neurons or 5-HT neurons when they were prepared from the VM or RH, respectively. The study demonstrates the pattern of survival and functional potential of ectopic DA neurons derived from the RH of En1(+/Otx2lacZ) transgenic mice and that cell transplantation is an important neurobiological tool to characterize newly generated DA neural stem cells in vivo.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The isthmic organizer mediating differentiation of mid- and hindbrain during vertebrate development is characterized by a well-defined pattern of locally restricted gene expression domains around the mid-hindbrain boundary (MHB). This pattern is established and maintained by a regulatory network between several transcription and secreted factors that is not yet understood in full detail. In this contribution we show that a Boolean analysis of the characteristic spatial gene expression patterns at the murine MHB reveals key regulatory interactions in this network. Our analysis employs techniques from computational logic for the minimization of Boolean functions. This approach allows us to predict also the interplay of the various regulatory interactions. In particular, we predict a maintaining, rather than inducing, effect of Fgf8 on Wnt1 expression, an issue that remained unclear from published data. Using mouse anterior neural plate/tube explant cultures, we provide experimental evidence that Fgf8 in fact only maintains but does not induce ectopic Wnt1 expression in these explants. In combination with previously validated interactions, this finding allows for the construction of a regulatory network between key transcription and secreted factors at the MHB. Analyses of Boolean, differential equation and reaction-diffusion models of this network confirm that it is indeed able to explain the stable maintenance of the MHB as well as time-courses of expression patterns both under wild-type and various knock-out conditions. In conclusion, we demonstrate that similar to temporal also spatial expression patterns can be used to gain information about the structure of regulatory networks. We show, in particular, that the spatial gene expression patterns around the MHB help us to understand the maintenance of this boundary on a systems level.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Wnt/beta-catenin signaling controls the proper development of the mid-/hindbrain region (MHR) and of midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons, but the Frizzled (Fzd) receptors transducing these signals are still unknown. Fzd3 is expressed throughout the mouse anterior neural tube, whereas Fzd6 is restricted to the MHR. We show that the MHR is properly established and mDA neurons develop normally in Fzd6(-/-) mutants, but the number of mDA neurons is initially reduced and recovers at later stages in Fzd3(-/-) embryos. Fzd3(-/-); Fzd6(-/-) double mutants exhibit a severe midbrain morphogenesis defect consisting of collapsed brain ventricles, apparent thickening of the neuroepithelium, focal disruption of the ventricular basal lamina and protrusion of individual cells, and increased proliferation at later stages, despite a normal closure of the anterior neural tube and the rescue of the mDA defect in these embryos. Fzd3 and Fzd6 thus control proper midbrain morphogenesis by a yet unknown mechanism in the mouse.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Little is known about the cues controlling the generation of motoneuron populations in the mammalian ventral midbrain. We show that Otx2 provides the crucial anterior-posterior positional information for the generation of red nucleus neurons in the murine midbrain. Moreover, the homeodomain transcription factor Nkx6-1 controls the proper development of the red nucleus and of the oculomotor and trochlear nucleus neurons. Nkx6-1 is expressed in ventral midbrain progenitors and acts as a fate determinant of the Brn3a(+) (also known as Pou4f1) red nucleus neurons. These progenitors are partially dorsalized in the absence of Nkx6-1, and a fraction of their postmitotic offspring adopts an alternative cell fate, as revealed by the activation of Dbx1 and Otx2 in these cells. Nkx6-1 is also expressed in postmitotic Isl1(+) oculomotor and trochlear neurons. Similar to hindbrain visceral (branchio-) motoneurons, Nkx6-1 controls the proper migration and axon outgrowth of these neurons by regulating the expression of at least three axon guidance/neuronal migration molecules. Based on these findings, we provide additional evidence that the developmental mechanism of the oculomotor and trochlear neurons exhibits more similarity with that of special visceral motoneurons than with that controlling the generation of somatic motoneurons located in the murine caudal hindbrain and spinal cord.
Development 09/2009; 136(15):2545-55. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Wnts are known to bind and activate multiple membrane receptors/coreceptors and to regulate dopaminergic (DA) neuron development and ventral midbrain (VM) morphogenesis. The low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (Lrp6) is a Wnt co-receptor, yet it remains unclear whether Lrp6 is required for DA neuron development or VM morphogenesis. Lrp6 is expressed ubiquitously in the developing VM. In this study, we show that Lrp6(-/-) mice exhibit normal patterning, proliferation and cell death in the VM, but display a delay in the onset of DA precursor differentiation. A transient 50% reduction in tyrosine hydroxylase-positive DA neurons and in the expression of DA markers such as Nurr1 and Pitx3, as well as a defect in midbrain morphogenesis was detected in the mutant embryos at embryonic day 11.5. Our results, therefore, suggest a role for Lrp6 in the onset of DA neuron development in the VM as well as a role in midbrain morphogenesis.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Meso-diencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons control voluntary movement, cognition and the reward response, and their degeneration is associated with Parkinson's disease (PD). Prospective cell transplantation therapies for PD require full knowledge of the developmental pathways that control mdDA neurogenesis. We have previously shown that Otx2 is required for the establishment of the mesencephalic field and molecular code of the entire ventral mesencephalon (VM). Here, we investigate whether Otx2 is a specific determinant of mesencephalic dopaminergic (mesDA) neurogenesis by studying mouse mutants that conditionally overexpress or lack Otx2. Our data show that Otx2 overexpression in the VM causes a dose-dependent and selective increase in both mesDA progenitors and neurons, which correlates with a remarkable and specific enhancement in the proliferating activity of mesDA progenitors. Consistently, lack of Otx2 in the VM specifically affects the proliferation of Sox2+ mesDA progenitors and causes their premature post-mitotic transition. Analysis of the developmental pathway that controls the differentiation of mesDA neurons shows that, in the absence of Otx2, the expression of Lmx1a and Msx1, and the proneural genes Ngn2 and Mash1 is not activated in Sox2+ mesDA progenitors, which largely fail to differentiate into Nurr1+ mesDA precursors. Furthermore, proliferation and differentiation abnormalities exhibit increasing severity along the anterior-posterior (AP) axis of the VM. These findings demonstrate that Otx2, through an AP graded effect, is intrinsically required to control proliferation and differentiation of mesDA progenitors. Thus, our data provide new insights into the mechanism of mesDA neuron specification and suggest Otx2 as a potential target for cell replacement-based therapeutic approaches in PD.
Development 11/2008; 135(20):3459-70. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dopamine-producing neurons in the mammalian midbrain have received considerable attention in recent years because of their involvement in diverse neurological and psychiatric human disorders such as Parkinson's Disease (PD), schizophrenia and addiction. Although the underlying pathogenic mechanisms of these disorders are far from being understood, it is meanwhile accepted that a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors lead to the disease state. More recent evidence also suggests that both neurological and psychiatric disorders result from early disturbances affecting the normal development of the mesencephalic dopaminergic (mesDA) neurons. Understanding the cues directing the generation of the different mesDA cell groups, the establishment of their proper connections within the brain and their maintenance in the adult are therefore also of great clinical interest. Rodents, and in particular the mouse, have served as the classical "surrogate" organism for these studies based on their phylogenetic relationship to humans, their relatively well characterized mesDA system on both the anatomical and physiological levels, and especially on the propensity of the mouse to genetic manipulation enabling the dissection of genetic pathways underlying the proper generation and maintenance of the mesDA system in this species. In the present review, we will summarize recent findings in the overall context of murine mesDA neuron development.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Wnt5a is a morphogen that activates the Wnt/planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway and serves multiple functions during development. PCP signaling controls the orientation of cells within an epithelial plane as well as convergent extension (CE) movements. Wnt5a was previously reported to promote differentiation of A9-10 dopaminergic (DA) precursors in vitro. However, the signaling mechanism in DA cells and the function of Wnt5a during midbrain development in vivo remains unclear. We hereby report that Wnt5a activated the GTPase Rac1 in DA cells and that Rac1 inhibitors blocked the Wnt5a-induced DA neuron differentiation of ventral midbrain (VM) precursor cultures, linking Wnt5a-induced differentiation with a known effector of Wnt/PCP signaling. In vivo, Wnt5a was expressed throughout the VM at embryonic day (E)9.5, and was restricted to the VM floor and basal plate by E11.5-E13.5. Analysis of Wnt5a-/- mice revealed a transient increase in progenitor proliferation at E11.5, and a precociously induced NR4A2+ (Nurr1) precursor pool at E12.5. The excess NR4A2+ precursors remained undifferentiated until E14.5, when a transient 25% increase in DA neurons was detected. Wnt5a-/- mice also displayed a defect in (mid)brain morphogenesis, including an impairment in midbrain elongation and a rounded ventricular cavity. Interestingly, these alterations affected mostly cells in the DA lineage. The ventral Sonic hedgehog-expressing domain was broadened and flattened, a typical CE phenotype, and the domains occupied by Ngn2+ DA progenitors, NR4A2+ DA precursors and TH+ DA neurons were rostrocaudally reduced and laterally expanded. In summary, we hereby describe a Wnt5a regulation of Wnt/PCP signaling in the DA lineage and provide evidence for multiple functions of Wnt5a in the VM in vivo, including the regulation of VM morphogenesis, DA progenitor cell division, and differentiation of NR4A2+ DA precursors.
PLoS ONE 02/2008; 3(10):e3517. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The establishment of the regional subdivisions of the vertebrate CNS is accomplished through the activity of different neuroepithelial organizing centers. The wingless/int (Wnt) family of secreted glycoproteins, among other factors, plays a crucial role in signaling from these centers. Wnt1 secreted from the boundary between the mid- and hindbrain, for instance, controls the development of this brain region and of associated neuronal populations. Different Wnts secreted from the caudomedial pallium, the cortical hem, pattern the adjacent hippocampal field. The first step in Wnt signal transduction is binding of the Wnt ligand to its receptors, the seven-pass transmembrane Frizzled proteins. Inactivation of different Frizzled genes in mice have revealed an extensive functional redundancy between these receptors. In order to discriminate between a possible participation of different Frizzled receptors in the transduction of Wnt signals at the mid-/hindbrain boundary and the cortical hem, we have performed a detailed expression study of the 10 known murine Frizzled genes at crucial stages of mouse embryonic development. Our analysis reveals a highly dynamic yet distinct expression pattern of individual Frizzled genes in the anterior neural tube of the developing mouse embryo. The overlapping spatio-temporal expression of at least two and up to six Frizzled genes in any region of the developing mouse brain, however, also suggests a vast functional redundancy of the murine Frizzled receptors. This redundancy has to be taken into consideration for future analyses of Frizzled receptor function at these signaling centers in the mouse.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mid-/hindbrain organizer (MHO) is characterized by the expression of a network of genes, which controls the patterning and development of the prospective midbrain and anterior hindbrain. One key molecule acting at the MHO is the fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) 8. Ectopic expression of Fgf8 induces genes that are normally expressed at the mid-/hindbrain boundary followed by the induction of midbrain and anterior hindbrain structures. Inactivation of the Fgf receptor (Fgfr) 1 gene, which was thought to be the primary transducer of the Fgf8 signal at the MHO, in the mid-/hindbrain region, leads to a deletion of dorsal structures of the mid-/hindbrain region, whereas ventral tissues are less severely affected. This suggests that other Fgfrs might be responsible for ventral mid-/hindbrain region development. Here we report the analysis of Fgfr2 conditional knockout mice, lacking the Fgfr2 in the mid-/hindbrain region and of Fgfr3 knockout mice with respect to the mid-/hindbrain region. In both homozygous mouse mutants, patterning of the mid-/hindbrain region is not altered, neuronal populations develop normal and are maintained into adulthood. This analysis shows that the Fgfr2 and the Fgfr3 on their own are dispensable for the development of the mid-/hindbrain region. We suggest functional redundancy of Fgf receptors in the mid-/hindbrain region.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Our knowledge about the normal generation of midbrain dopaminergic neurons in vivois still rudimentary, despite many attempts to recapitulate the underlying events in vitro. Because the loss of these neurons is implicated in Parkinson's disease, this lack of information is one of the major drawbacks in the development of better therapies for this severe human neurological disorder. Recently, substantial advances have been made by demonstrating that the secreted molecule Wnt1 regulates a genetic network, including the transcription factors Otx2 and Nkx2-2, for the initial establishment of the dopaminergic progenitor domain in the mammalian ventral midbrain. In addition, Wnt1 appears to regulate the differentiation of the postmitotic progeny of these precursors by initiating the expression of midbrain dopaminergic-specific transcription factors. A genetic cascade controlled by the secreted molecule Sonic hedgehog, including the transcription factors Lmx1a, Msx1 and Nkx6-1, acts in parallel with the Wnt1-regulated network to establish the midbrain dopaminergic progenitor domain. The Sonic-hedgehog-controlled cascade may diverge from the Wnt1-regulated network at later stages of neural development through induction of proneural transcription factors required for the acquisition of generic neuronal properties by the midbrain dopaminergic progeny. Here we provide a brief overview of these regulatory gene networks.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent data have substantially advanced our understanding of midbrain dopaminergic neuron development. Firstly, a Wnt1-regulated genetic network, including Otx2 and Nkx2-2, and a Shh-controlled genetic cascade, including Lmx1a, Msx1 and Nkx6-1, have been unravelled, acting in parallel or sequentially to establish a territory competent for midbrain dopaminergic precursor production at relatively early stages of neural development. Secondly, the same factors (Wnt1 and Lmx1a/Msx1) appear to regulate midbrain dopaminergic and/or neuronal fate specification in the postmitotic progeny of these precursors by controlling the expression of midbrain dopaminergic-specific and/or general proneural factors at later stages of neural development. For the first time, early inductive events have thus been linked to later differentiation processes in midbrain dopaminergic neuron development. Given the pivotal importance of this neuronal population for normal function of the human brain and its involvement in severe neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Parkinson's Disease, these advances open new prospects for potential stem cell-based therapies. We will summarize these new findings in the overall context of midbrain dopaminergic neuron development in this review.
The Journal of Physiology 10/2006; 575(Pt 2):403-10. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Midbrain neurons synthesizing the neurotransmitter dopamine play a central role in the modulation of different brain functions and are associated with major neurological and psychiatric disorders. Despite the importance of these cells, the molecular mechanisms controlling their development are still poorly understood. The secreted glycoprotein Wnt1 is expressed in close vicinity to developing midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Here, we show that Wnt1 regulates the genetic network, including Otx2 and Nkx2-2, that is required for the establishment of the midbrain dopaminergic progenitor domain during embryonic development. In addition, Wnt1 is required for the terminal differentiation of midbrain dopaminergic neurons at later stages of embryogenesis. These results identify Wnt1 as a key molecule in the development of midbrain dopaminergic neurons in vivo. They also suggest the Wnt1-controlled signaling pathway as a promising target for new therapeutic strategies in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Development 02/2006; 133(1):89-98. · 6.21 Impact Factor