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Role of Barhl1 in migration and survival of cerebellar and precerebellar neurons. The neurons generated at the germinal rhombic lip undergo long-distance migration along divergent pathways to settle in widely dispersed locations within the hindbrain, giving rise to cerebellar granule cells and precerebellar nuclei. Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) signaling has been shown to be required for proper migration and survival of cerebellar granule cells. The molecular bases that govern NT-3 expression within the cerebellum, however, remain unknown at present. We find that during early mouse neurogenesis the Barhl1 homeobox gene is highly expressed by the rhombic lip and rhombic lip-derived migratory neurons. Its expression is later restricted to cerebellar granule cells and precerebellar neurons extending mossy fibers, two groups of neurons that synaptically connect in the adult cerebellar system. Loss of Barhl1 function causes cerebellar phenotypes with a striking similarity to those of NT-3 conditional null mice, which include attenuated cerebellar foliation as well as defective radial migration and increased apoptotic death of granule cells. Correlating with these defects, we find that NT-3 expression is dramatically down-regulated in granule cells of the posterior lobe of Barhl1-/- cerebella. Moreover, in the precerebellar system of Barhl1-/- mice, all five nuclei that project mossy fibers fail to form correctly due to aberrant neuronal migration and elevated apoptosis. These results suggest that Barhl1 plays an essential role in the migration and survival of cerebellar granule cells and precerebellar neurons and functionally link Barhl1 to the NT-3 signaling pathway during cerebellar development.

Barhl1 regulates NT-3 expression and controls cerebellar and precerebellar development. J. Neurosci. 24:3104-3114 (2004)

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