Domain-specific control of neurogenesis achieved through patterned regulation of Notch ligand expression

Ulrika Marklund, Emil M. Hansson, Erik Sundström, Martin Hrabé de Angelis, Gerhard K.H. Przemeck, Urban Lendahl, Jonas Muhr, Johan Ericson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Homeodomain (HD) transcription factors and components of the Notch pathway [Delta1 (Dll1), Jagged1 (Jag1) and the Fringe (Fng) proteins] are expressed in distinct progenitor domains along the dorsoventral (DV) axis of the developing spinal cord. However, the internal relationship between these two regulatory pathways has not been established. In this report we show that HD proteins act upstream of Notch signalling. Thus, HD proteins control the spatial distribution of Notch ligands and Fng proteins, whereas perturbation of the Notch pathway does not affect the regional expression of HD proteins. Loss of Dll1 or Jag1 leads to a domain-specific increase of neuronal differentiation but does not affect the establishment of progenitor domain boundaries. Moreover, gain-of-function experiments indicate that the ability of Dll1 and Jag1 to activate Notch is limited to progenitors endogenously expressing the respective ligand. Fng proteins enhance Dll1-activated Notch signalling and block Notch activation mediated by Jag1. This finding, combined with the overlapping expression of Fng with Dll1 but not with Jag1, is likely to explain the domain-specific activity of the Notch ligands. This outcome is opposite to the local regulation of Notch activity in most other systems, including the Drosophila wing, where Fng co-localizes with Jagged/Serrate rather than Dll/Delta, which facilitates Notch signalling at regional boundaries instead of within domains. The regulation of Notch activation in the spinal cord therefore appears to endow specific progenitor populations with a domain-wide autonomy in the control of neurogenesis and prevents any inadequate activation of Notch across progenitor domain boundaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-445
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge)
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • CNS
  • Homeodomain
  • Neural patterning
  • Neurogenesis
  • Notch pathway


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