The embryonic generation of motor neurons is a complex process involving progenitor patterning, fate specification, differentiation, and maturation. Throughout this progression, the differential expression of transcription factors has served as our road map for the eventual cell fate of nascent motor neurons. Recent findings from in vivo and in vitro models of motor neuron development have expanded our understanding of how transcription factors govern motor neuron identity and their individual regulatory mechanisms. With the advent of next generation sequencing approaches, researchers now have unprecedented access to the gene regulatory dynamics involved in motor neuron development and are uncovering new connections linking neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative disease.
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