Nature neuroscience

MafB deficiency causes defective respiratory rhythmogenesis and fatal central apnea at birth.

PMID 14513037


The genetic basis for the development of brainstem neurons that generate respiratory rhythm is unknown. Here we show that mice deficient for the transcription factor MafB die from central apnea at birth and are defective for respiratory rhythmogenesis in vitro. MafB is expressed in a subpopulation of neurons in the preBötzinger complex (preBötC), a putative principal site of rhythmogenesis. Brainstems from Mafb(-/-) mice are insensitive to preBötC electrolytic lesion or stimulation and modulation of rhythmogenesis by hypoxia or peptidergic input. Furthermore, in Mafb(-/-) mice the preBötC, but not major neuromodulatory groups, presents severe anatomical defects with loss of cellularity. Our results show an essential role of MafB in central respiratory control, possibly involving the specification of rhythmogenic preBötC neurons.