Neural tube patterning by Krox20 and emergence of a respiratory control

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2005 Nov 15;149(1-3):63-72. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2005.02.014.


Recent data begin to bridge the gap between developmental events controlling hindbrain neural tube regional patterning and the emergence of breathing behaviour in the fetus and its vital adaptive function after birth. In vertebrates, Hox paralogs and Hox-regulating genes orchestrate, in a conserved manner, the transient formation of developmental compartments in the hindbrain, the rhombomeres, in which rhythmic neuronal networks of the brainstem develop. Genetic inactivation of some of these genes in mice leads to pathological breathing at birth pointing to the vital importance of rhombomere 3 and 4 derived territories for maintenance of the breathing frequency. In chick embryo at E7, we investigated neuronal activities generated in neural tube islands deriving from combinations of rhombomeres isolated at embryonic day E1.5. Using a gain of function approach, we reveal a role of the transcription factor Krox20, specifying rhombomeres 3 and 5, in inducing a rhythm generator at the parafacial level of the hindbrain. The developmental genes selecting and regionally coordinating the fate of CNS progenitors may hold further clues to conserved aspects of neuronal network formation and function. However, the most immediate concern is to take advantage of early generated rhythmic activities in the hindbrain to pursue their downstream cellular and molecular targets, for it seems likely that it will be here that rhythmogenic properties will eventually take on a vital role at birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Early Growth Response Protein 2 / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*


  • Early Growth Response Protein 2