Rhombomere-specific origin of branchial and visceral motoneurons of the facial nerve in the rat embryo

J Comp Neurol. 1996 Jun 3;369(3):451-61. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19960603)369:3<451::AID-CNE9>3.0.CO;2-4.


The goal of this study was to localize selectively the facial nerve branchial and visceral motoneurons in the rat embryo hindbrain. This was achieved by injecting dextran amines into the peripheral facial nerve on embryos maintained in an artificial cerebrospinal fluid. Sprague-Dawley rat embryos 13, 14, and 15 days old (E13, E14, E15) were obtained by cesarean section. Branchial motoneurons were first labeled at E13. They were close to the midline and migrated from rhombomere (r) 4 toward r5 and r6. By E15, they had migrated caudally and ventrolaterally into the former location of r6. Most of them had reached their "adult" position by E15. Another group of motoneurons, the accessory facial nucleus, was found in r4 at E13 and in corresponding regions at later stages. Visceral motoneurons were labeled from the periphery at all stages. At E13, they were mainly in r5 but also in r2, r3, r4, and r6. At E14, most of them had migrated laterally, and, by E15, they were in the prospective parvocellular reticular formation. They could be divided into two subgroups: a more rostral one with fibers that made loops close to the midline and a more caudal one with fibers that went directly to the exit. The findings presented here show that most branchial and visceral motoneurons of the facial nerve are born in different and specific rhombomeres. Interestingly, developmental genes are expressed specifically in these rhombomeres and could be involved in the genesis of the facial and superior salivatory nuclei.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Facial Nerve / cytology*
  • Facial Nerve / embryology
  • Female
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / cytology
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / embryology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley / embryology*
  • Rhombencephalon / cytology
  • Rhombencephalon / embryology*