Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 219333
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE

Molecular mechanisms that determine sensory neuron differentiation

Elucidating sensory neuron development at the molecular level is key to identifying the ontogeny of diseases and may pave the way for innovative treatment strategies. European scientists investigated how specific transcription factors promote neuronal specification during development.
Molecular mechanisms that determine sensory neuron differentiation
During development, the emerging cells become extensively diversified, leading to the known cellular complexity that characterises most organisms. In the nervous system, this translates into different sensory neurons distributed throughout the body for sensing different signals and delivering the information to the brain.

The key scientific objective of the EU-funded 'Defining the transcription factors code directing sensory lineage diversification and connectivity' (SENSORY NEURONS CODE) project was to unveil the developmental steps and parameters that determine sensory neuron specification. Project scientists were particularly interested in the Cut-like homeodomain transcription factors (Cux) and their implication in the emergence of neuronal diversification.

Studies in mice lacking Cux2 revealed the role of the transcription factor in the development of a specialised sub-set of sensory neurons. Understanding the molecular determinants of neuronal specification is central for drug screening and cell-based therapies to maximise specific cell production in vitro.

Work to unveil how neurons interact and assemble together to form a functional network revealed that Cux2 participates in the establishment of central nervous system connections. Scientists saw that when they overexpressed Cux2 in the chicken spinal cord they managed to change axonal orientation and branching.

Understanding how aberrant neuronal networks arise is important as major neuropsychiatric illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders arise from errors in development of networks.

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