Mesodermal and neuronal retinoids regulate the induction and maintenance of limb innervating spinal motor neurons

Sheng Jian Ji, Bin Quan Zhuang, Crystal Falco, André Schneider, Karin Schuster-Gossler, Achim Gossler, Shanthini Sockanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


During embryonic development, the generation, diversification and maintenance of spinal motor neurons depend upon extrinsic signals that are tightly regulated. Retinoic acid (RA) is necessary for specifying the fates of forelimb-innervating motor neurons of the Lateral Motor Column (LMC), and the specification of LMC neurons into medial and lateral subtypes. Previous studies implicate motor neurons as the relevant source of RA for specifying lateral LMC fates at forelimb levels. However, at the time of LMC diversification, a significant amount of retinoids in the spinal cord originates from the adjacent paraxial mesoderm. Here we employ mouse genetics to show that RA derived from the paraxial mesoderm is required for lateral LMC induction at forelimb and hindlimb levels, demonstrating that mesodermally synthesized RA functions as a second source of signals to specify lateral LMC identity. Furthermore, reduced RA levels in postmitotic motor neurons result in a decrease of medial and lateral LMC neurons, and abnormal axonal projections in the limb; invoking additional roles for neuronally synthesized RA in motor neuron maintenance and survival. These findings suggest that during embryogenesis, mesodermal and neuronal retinoids act coordinately to establish and maintain appropriate cohorts of spinal motor neurons that innervate target muscles in the limb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-261
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006


  • Maintenance
  • Motor neuron
  • Retinoids
  • Specification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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