PloS one

Molecular characterization of the mouse superior lateral parabrachial nucleus through expression of the transcription factor Runx1.

PMID 21085653


The ability to precisely identify separate neuronal populations is essential to the understanding of the development and function of different brain structures. This necessity is particularly evident in regions such as the brainstem, where the anatomy is quite complex and little is known about the identity, origin, and function of a number of distinct nuclei due to the lack of specific cellular markers. In this regard, the gene encoding the transcription factor Runx1 has emerged as a specific marker of restricted neuronal populations in the murine central and peripheral nervous systems. The aim of this study was to precisely characterize the expression of Runx1 in the developing and postnatal mouse brainstem. Anatomical and immunohistochemical studies were used to characterize mouse Runx1 expression in the brainstem. It is shown here that Runx1 is expressed in a restricted population of neurons located in the dorsolateral rostral hindbrain. These neurons define a structure that is ventromedial to the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus, dorsocaudal to the medial paralemniscal nucleus and rostral to the cerebellum. Runx1 expression in these cells is first observed at approximately gestational day 12.5, persists into the adult brain, and is lost in knockout mice lacking the transcription factor Atoh1, an important regulator of the development of neuronal lineages of the rhombic lip. Runx1-expressing neurons in the rostral hindbrain produce cholecystokinin and also co-express members of the Groucho/Transducin-like Enhancer of split protein family. Based on the anatomical and molecular characteristics of the Runx1-expressing cells in the rostral hindbrain, we propose that Runx1 expression in this region of the mouse brain defines the superior lateral parabrachial nucleus.