Molecular Organization and Patterning of the Medulla Oblongata in Health and Disease

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 17;23(16):9260. doi: 10.3390/ijms23169260.


The medulla oblongata, located in the hindbrain between the pons and the spinal cord, is an important relay center for critical sensory, proprioceptive, and motoric information. It is an evolutionarily highly conserved brain region, both structural and functional, and consists of a multitude of nuclei all involved in different aspects of basic but vital functions. Understanding the functional anatomy and developmental program of this structure can help elucidate potential role(s) of the medulla in neurological disorders. Here, we have described the early molecular patterning of the medulla during murine development, from the fundamental units that structure the very early medullary region into 5 rhombomeres (r7-r11) and 13 different longitudinal progenitor domains, to the neuronal clusters derived from these progenitors that ultimately make-up the different medullary nuclei. By doing so, we developed a schematic overview that can be used to predict the cell-fate of a progenitor group, or pinpoint the progenitor domain of origin of medullary nuclei. This schematic overview can further be used to help in the explanation of medulla-related symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders, e.g., congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, Wold-Hirschhorn syndrome, Rett syndrome, and Pitt-Hopkins syndrome. Based on the genetic defects seen in these syndromes, we can use our model to predict which medullary nuclei might be affected, which can be used to quickly direct the research into these diseases to the likely affected nuclei.

Keywords: Pitt–Hopkins; brain; development; gene; medulla; patterning; regulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Medulla Oblongata* / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neurons
  • Rett Syndrome*
  • Rhombencephalon
  • Spinal Cord