Postmitotic Hoxa5 Expression Specifies Pontine Neuron Positional Identity and Input Connectivity of Cortical Afferent Subsets

Cell Rep. 2020 Jun 16;31(11):107767. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107767.


The mammalian precerebellar pontine nucleus (PN) has a main role in relaying cortical information to the cerebellum. The molecular determinants establishing ordered connectivity patterns between cortical afferents and precerebellar neurons are largely unknown. We show that expression of Hox5 transcription factors is induced in specific subsets of postmitotic PN neurons at migration onset. Hox5 induction is achieved by response to retinoic acid signaling, resulting in Jmjd3-dependent derepression of Polycomb chromatin and 3D conformational changes. Hoxa5 drives neurons to settle posteriorly in the PN, where they are monosynaptically targeted by cortical neuron subsets mainly carrying limb somatosensation. Furthermore, Hoxa5 postmigratory ectopic expression in PN neurons is sufficient to attract cortical somatosensory inputs regardless of position and avoid visual afferents. Transcriptome analysis further suggests that Hoxa5 is involved in circuit formation. Thus, Hoxa5 coordinates postmitotic specification, migration, settling position, and sub-circuit assembly of PN neuron subsets in the cortico-cerebellar pathway.

Keywords: Ezh2; Hox transcription factor; Kdm6b; corticopontine circuit development; epigenetic chromatin regulation; neuronal positional identity; precerebellar neurons; retinoic acid; somatosensory topographic connectivity map; transsynaptic neuronal tracing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cerebellum / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Hoxa5 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors