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    Mesodiencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons are located in the ventral midbrain. These neurons form the substantia nigra (SNc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Two transcription factors that play important roles in the process of terminal differentiation and subset-specification of mdDA neurons, are paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 3 (Pitx3), and homeobox transcription factor Engrailed 1 (En1). We previously investigated the single Pitx3KO and En1KO and observed important changes in the survival of mdDA neurons of the SNc and VTA as well as altered expression of pivotal rostral- and caudal-markers, Ahd2 and Cck, respectively. To refine our understanding of the regional-specific relationships between En1 and Pitx3 and their (combined) role in the programming mdDA neurons on the rostral-to-caudal axis, we created double En1tm1Alj/tm1Alj;Pitx3gfp/gfp (En1KO;Pitx3GFP/GFP) animals. Here we report, that in absence of En1 and Pitx3, only a limited number of mdDA neurons are present at E14.5. These mdDA neurons have a rudimentary dopaminergic cell fate, as they express Nurr1, Pbx3 and Otx2 but have lost their rostral or caudal subset identity. Furthermore, we report that the expression of Cck depends on En1 expression, while (in contrast) both Pitx3 and En1 are involved in the initiation of Ahd2 expression. Thus we reveal in this manuscript that regulated levels of Pitx3 and En1 control the size and rostral/caudal-identity of the mdDA neuronal population.


    Willemieke M Kouwenhoven, Lars von Oerthel, Marten P Smidt. Pitx3 and En1 determine the size and molecular programming of the dopaminergic neuronal pool. PloS one. 2017;12(8):e0182421

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    PMID: 28800615

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