Stochastic neuronal cell fate choices

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2008 Feb;18(1):20-7. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2008.04.004. Epub 2008 May 27.


Though many neuronal cell fate decisions result in reproducible outcomes, stochastic choices often lead to spatial randomization of cell subtypes. This is often the case in sensory systems where expression of a specific sensory receptor gene is selected randomly from a set of possible outcomes. Here, we describe recent findings elucidating the mechanisms controlling color photoreceptor subtypes in flies and olfactory receptor subtypes in worms and mice. Although well-known biological concepts such as lateral signaling and promoter selection play roles in these cases, fundamental questions concerning these choice mechanisms remain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cell Lineage / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Nervous System / cytology
  • Nervous System / embryology*
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / cytology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / embryology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / metabolism
  • Receptors, Odorant / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Stochastic Processes*


  • Receptors, Odorant