VndNkx indGsh and mshMsx Specification of Longitudinal Columns

Beyond the mechanisms of early neuroectoderm formation, a further set of genetic elements involved in early dorsoventral patterning of the CNS appears to be evolutionarily conserved (Cornell and Ohlen, 2000). These genetic regulatory elements are three

Drosophila Dorsal

Ventral

Mouse

Dorsal

Drosophila Dorsal

I Midline, Netrin+ AS-Clash

I Midline, Netrin+ AS-Clash

Bmp4

Bmp4

Figure 7 Transverse sections through the Drosophila and mouse CNS primordia showing similar dorsoventral regulation of pattern by the sog (short gastrulation)/Chordin, dpp (deca-pentaplegic)/BMP4, Msx/msh, Nkx2/vnd, AS-C (achaete-scute complex)/ash (AS-C homologues), and Netrin gene families. Reproduced from Sharman, A. C. and Brand, M. 1998. Evolution and homology of the nervous system: Cross-phylum rescues of otd/otx genes. Trends Genet. 14(6), 211-214, with permission from Elsevier.

Bmp4

Ventral

Bmp4

Figure 7 Transverse sections through the Drosophila and mouse CNS primordia showing similar dorsoventral regulation of pattern by the sog (short gastrulation)/Chordin, dpp (deca-pentaplegic)/BMP4, Msx/msh, Nkx2/vnd, AS-C (achaete-scute complex)/ash (AS-C homologues), and Netrin gene families. Reproduced from Sharman, A. C. and Brand, M. 1998. Evolution and homology of the nervous system: Cross-phylum rescues of otd/otx genes. Trends Genet. 14(6), 211-214, with permission from Elsevier.

sets of homeobox genes that control the formation of columnar dorsoventral domains in the ventral neuroectoderm of Drosophila; their homologues may act in a similar fashion in dorsoventral patterning in the neural plate of vertebrates (Figure 7). In Drosophila, the homeobox genes are ventral nerve cord defective (vnd), intermediate nerve cord defective (ind), and muscle-specific homeobox (msh) and they are expressed in longitudinal stripes along the ventral (vnd), intermediate (ind), and dorsal (msh) columns in the neuroectoderm (Isshiki et al., 1997; McDonald et al., 1998; Chu et al., 1998; Weiss et al., 1998). In each column, expression of the appropriate homeobox gene is required for neuroblast formation and for specification of columnar identity. Comparable expression patterns have been reported for the beetle Tribolium (Wheeler et al., 2005).

In vertebrates, homologues of the Drosophila columnar genes that belong to the Nkx (vnd), Gsh (ind), and Msx (msh) gene families have been identified. These genes are expressed in columnar domains in the neural plate and neural tube of the embryonic CNS. (Invagination of the vertebrate neural plate to form the neural tube results in translocation of the lateromedial position into the dorsoventral position.) In vertebrates, several Nkx family members are expressed in ventral regions of the neural tube and at least one of these is expressed earlier in the corresponding medial region of the neural plate (Qiu et al., 1998; Pera and Kessel, 1998; Pabst et al., 1998; Shimamura et al., 1995). Similarly, expression of vertebrate Msx family members is seen in the lateral neural plate, which later forms the dorsal neural tube (Wang et al., 1996). Finally, vertebrate Gsh family genes are expressed at dorsoventrally intermediate levels in the neural tube (Valerius et al., 1995; Hsieh-Li et al., 1995). Functional studies suggest that some of these genes are involved in controlling regional identity along the dorsoventral axis of the neural tube (Briscoe et al., 1999; Sussel et al., 1999). These findings indicate that in the developing CNS of insects and vertebrates, the expression domains of columnar genes in the neuroectoderm/neural plate are comparable (Figure 7). This, in turn, has led to the proposal that the medial, intermediate, and lateral neurogenic columns of the Drosophila embryonic neuroectoderm correspond to the medial, intermediate, and lateral columns of the vertebrate neural plate, albeit in dorsoventral inverted orientation (D'Alessio and Frasch, 1996; Weiss et al., 1998).

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