Transcription factor short stature homeobox 2 is required for proper development of tropomyosin-related kinase B-expressing mechanosensory neurons.
Dorsal root ganglia (DRG) contain somatosensory neurons of diverse sensory modalities. Among these different types of sensory neurons, the molecular mechanisms that regulate the development and specification of touch neurons are the least well understood. We took a candidate approach and searched for transcription factors that are expressed in subsets of DRG neurons, and found that the transcription factor Shox2 (short stature homeobox 2) is expressed in subpopulations of TrkB (tropomyosin-related kinase B)- and Ret-expressing neurons at neonatal stages. Since TrkB is a known marker that is selectively expressed in touch sensory neurons, we decided to examine the function of Shox2 in specifying TrkB-positive DRG neurons. Conditional deletion of Shox2 in neural crest cells (which give rise to all DRG neurons) caused a 60 ∼ 65% reduction in the number of TrkB-expressing neurons. It also resulted in an increase in coexpression of TrkC in Ret-positive sensory neurons. Deletion of Shox2 in differentiating DRG neurons at later time points caused only a moderate reduction in TrkB expression. Overexpression of Shox2 in all neural crest cells resulted in a small increase in the number of TrkB-expressing neurons. Finally, Shox2 deletion also caused reduced touch sensory axonal innervation to layers III/IV of the spinal cord. Together, our findings identify Shox2 as an essential but not sufficient component of the transcription programs required in neural progenitor cells for the proper specification of subsets of TrkB-expressing touch/mechanosensory neurons.
Scott, A; Hasegawa, H; Sakurai, K; Yaron, A; Cobb, J; Wang, F
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