The influence of Hox genes and three intercellular signalling pathways on enteric neuromuscular development

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2004 Apr:16 Suppl 1:8-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-3150.2004.00467.x.


Normal intestinal motility requires orderly development of the complex nerve plexuses and smooth muscular layers in the gut wall. Organization of these structures results, in part, from cell autonomous programmes directed by transcription factors, which orchestrate appropriate temporal and spatial expression of specific target genes. Hox proteins appear to function in combination to dictate regional codes that establish major structural landmarks in the gut such as sphincters and muscle layers. These codes are translated in part by intercellular signals, which allow populations of cells in the embryonic gut wall to alter the developmental fate of their neighbours. Some of the best characterized intercellular signalling pathways involved in enteric neurodevelopment are mediated by GDNF/GFRa1/RET, EDN3/ENDRB, and NETRINS/DCC. These signals affect enteric neural precursors as they colonize the gut, and perturbations of these molecules are associated with various types of intestinal neuropathology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Enteric Nervous System / embryology
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / innervation
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*