Pitx2 distinguishes subtypes of terminally differentiated neurons in the developing mouse neuroepithelium

Dev Biol. 2002 Dec 1;252(1):84-99. doi: 10.1006/dbio.2002.0835.


Pitx2, a homeodomain transcription factor, is essential for normal development of pituitary, eyes, heart, and teeth. In the developing mouse brain, Pitx2 (Rieg, Ptx2, Otlx2, Brx1) mRNA is expressed in discrete regions of the diencephalon, mesencephalon, and rhombencephalon. While prior reports have provided an overview of the temporal and regional specificity of Pitx2 mRNA expression in the brain, the precise cell types that express PITX2 are not known. In this study, we analyzed Pitx2 mRNA and PITX2 protein expression in individual cells of the developing e10.5-e14.5 mouse CNS using multiple markers of cellular proliferation and differentiation. We identified Pitx2 expression in nestin-positive neural progenitors and in postmitotic, developing neurons. In the diencephalon, PITX2 is expressed in neurons of the zona limitans intrathalamica and mammillary region and in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-producing neurons of the zona incerta. In the mesencephalon, PITX2-labeled nuclei also appear in differentiated neurons, some of which are GABAergic and destined to occupy superior colliculus. Our results suggest that PITX2 expression in postmitotic neurons may contribute to development of GABAergic and other differentiated neuronal phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / embryology*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Nuclear Proteins*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors
  • homeobox protein PITX2