Topographic organization of embryonic motor neurons defined by expression of LIM homeobox genes

Cell. 1994 Dec 16;79(6):957-70. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(94)90027-2.


Motor neurons located at different positions in the embryonic spinal cord innervate distinct targets in the periphery, establishing a topographic neural map. The topographic organization of motor projections depends on the generation of subclasses of motor neurons that select specific paths to their targets. We have cloned a family of LIM homeobox genes in chick and show here that the combinatorial expression of four of these genes, Islet-1, Islet-2, Lim-1, and Lim-3, defines subclasses of motor neurons that segregate into columns in the spinal cord and select distinct axonal pathways. These genes are expressed prior to the formation of distinct motor axon pathways and before motor columns appear. Our results suggest that LIM homeobox genes contribute to the generation of motor neuron diversity and may confer subclasses of motor neurons with the ability to select specific axon pathways, thereby initiating the topographic organization of motor projections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / embryology
  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport
  • Cattle
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins
  • Models, Neurological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / isolation & purification
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology
  • Spinal Cord / embryology*
  • Transcription Factors


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors
  • insulin gene enhancer binding protein Isl-1

Associated data

  • GENBANK/L35567
  • GENBANK/L35568
  • GENBANK/L35569
  • GENBANK/L35570
  • GENBANK/L35571
  • GENBANK/L35572