In the vertebrate neural tube, a morphogen-induced transcriptional network produces multiple molecularly distinct progenitor domains, each generating different neuronal subtypes. Using an in vitro differentiation system, we defined gene expression signatures of distinct progenitor populations and identified direct gene-regulatory inputs corresponding to locations of specific transcription factor binding. Combined with targeted perturbations of the network, this revealed a mechanism in which a progenitor identity is installed by active repression of the entire transcriptional programs of other neural progenitor fates. In the ventral neural tube, sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling, together with broadly expressed transcriptional activators, concurrently activates the gene expression programs of several domains. The specific outcome is selected by repressive input provided by Shh-induced transcription factors that act as the key nodes in the network, enabling progenitors to adopt a single definitive identity from several initially permitted options. Together, the data suggest design principles relevant to many developing tissues.
Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.