The aim of this study was to evaluate the role segmentation plays in the determination of neuronal identity in the hindbrain. We focused on two specific sets of hindbrain neurons, namely, the vestibulospinal and vestibulo-ocular neurons, which comprise distinct groups that can be identified and distinguished by virtue of their axonal projection pathways. The relationship between rhombomeres and the vestibular neuron groups was assessed by a combination of quail-chicken chimeric grafting and selective retrograde axonal tracing. Individual quail hemirhombomeres were transplanted homotopically and isochronically into a chicken embryo host. Subsequently, vestibulospinal and vestibulo-ocular neurons with specific axon trajectories were labeled retrogradely with biotin-conjugated dextran-amines. The relationship between the spatial domains of the vestibular neuron groups and rhombomere-derived domains had the following features: (1) some groups were derived from single rhombomeres; (2) some groups were derived from multiple contiguous rhombomeres; (3) two groups occupied domains that could not be defined in terms of whole rhombomere lengths; (4) some groups spanning multiple rhombomeres exhibited an internal cytoarchitectonic organization that related to individual rhombomeres; and (5) some groups exhibited limited boundary violation. These results support the notion that positional information within defined domains of the neural tube provides a groundplan for the regional determination of neuronal identity and axon pathfinding, and that hindbrain segmentation contributes to this process. But they also indicate that segmentation is not the only mechanism that defines the rostrocaudal domains of neuron types. Moreover, they emphasize that the relationship between rhombomeres and neuronal determination cannot be couched simply in terms of segmental iteration or of bimeric (paired rule) specification.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.