Single gene regulates motor neurons in the spinal cord
As a normal mammalian body grows, hundreds of motor neurons grow from the spinal cord to the muscles they will control.
During development of mice with a single mutation in the gene Hoxc9, thoracic motor neurons were transformed into limb motor neurons. This study shows that the gene acts as a global organiser of motor neurons and their connections, helping to explain how the nervous system develops to control movements such as breathing and walking.
Humans have 39 hox genes, of which 21 have a role in coordinating motor neurons in the spinal cord. Understanding motor neuron development can contribute to the ultimate goal of finding mechanisms to repair spinal injury.