Hoxb1 controls anteroposterior identity of vestibular projection neurons

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34762. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034762. Epub 2012 Apr 2.


The vestibular nuclear complex (VNC) consists of a collection of sensory relay nuclei that integrates and relays information essential for coordination of eye movements, balance, and posture. Spanning the majority of the hindbrain alar plate, the rhombomere (r) origin and projection pattern of the VNC have been characterized in descriptive works using neuroanatomical tracing. However, neither the molecular identity nor developmental regulation of individual nucleus of the VNC has been determined. To begin to address this issue, we found that Hoxb1 is required for the anterior-posterior (AP) identity of precursors that contribute to the lateral vestibular nucleus (LVN). Using a gene-targeted Hoxb1-GFP reporter in the mouse, we show that the LVN precursors originate exclusively from r4 and project to the spinal cord in the stereotypic pattern of the lateral vestibulospinal tract that provides input into spinal motoneurons driving extensor muscles of the limb. The r4-derived LVN precursors express the transcription factors Phox2a and Lbx1, and the glutamatergic marker Vglut2, which together defines them as dB2 neurons. Loss of Hoxb1 function does not alter the glutamatergic phenotype of dB2 neurons, but alters their stereotyped spinal cord projection. Moreover, at the expense of Phox2a, the glutamatergic determinants Lmx1b and Tlx3 were ectopically expressed by dB2 neurons. Our study suggests that the Hox genes determine the AP identity and diversity of vestibular precursors, including their output target, by coordinating the expression of neurotransmitter determinant and target selection properties along the AP axis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Body Patterning
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / embryology
  • Vestibular Nucleus, Lateral / cytology
  • Vestibular Nucleus, Lateral / embryology*


  • Ascl1 protein, mouse
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • HOXB1 homeodomain protein
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Lbx1h protein, mouse
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Phox2a protein, mouse
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Tlx3 protein, mouse
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins