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Klafke, Ruth; Anand, A. Alwin Prem; Wurst, Wolfgang; Prakash, Nilima and Wizenmann, Andrea (2016): Differences in the spatiotemporal expression and epistatic gene regulation of the mesodiencephalic dopaminergic precursor marker PITX3 during chicken and mouse development. In: Development, Vol. 143, No. 4: pp. 691-702

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Mesodiencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons are located in the ventral mesencephalon and caudal diencephalon of all tetrapod species studied so far. They are the most prominent DA neuronal population and are implicated in control and modulation of motor, cognitive and rewarding/affective behaviors. Their degeneration or dysfunction is intimately linked to several neurological and neuropsychiatric human diseases. To gain further insights into their generation, we studied spatiotemporal expression patterns and epistatic interactions in chick embryos of selected marker genes and signaling pathways associated with mdDA neuron development in mouse. We detected striking differences in the expression patterns of the chick orthologs of the mouse mdDA marker genes Pitx3 and Aldh1a1, which suggests important differences between the species in the generation/generating of these cells. We also discovered that the sonic hedgehog signaling pathway is both necessary and sufficient for the induction of ectopic PITX3 expression in chick mesencephalon downstream of WNT9A-induced LMX1a transcription. These aspects of early chicken development resemble the ontogeny of zebrafish diencephalic DA neuronal populations, and suggest a divergence between birds and mammals during evolution.

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