Alessandro Furlan, Moritz L├╝bke, Igor Adameyko, Francois Lallemend, Patrik Ernfors


The EMBO journal


The sympathetic nervous system relies on distinct populations of neurons that use noradrenaline or acetylcholine as neurotransmitter. We show that fating of the sympathetic lineage at early stages results in hybrid precursors from which, genetic cell-lineage tracing reveals, all types progressively emerge by principal mechanisms of maintenance, repression and induction of phenotypes. The homeobox transcription factor HMX1 represses Tlx3 and Ret, induces TrkA and maintains tyrosine hydroxylase (Th) expression in precursors, thus driving segregation of the noradrenergic sympathetic fate. Cholinergic sympathetic neurons develop through cross-regulatory interactions between TRKC and RET in precursors, which lead to Hmx1 repression and sustained Tlx3 expression, thereby resulting in failure of TrkA induction and loss of maintenance of Th expression. Our results provide direct evidence for a model in which diversification of noradrenergic and cholinergic sympathetic neurons is based on a principle of cross-repressive functions in which the specific cell fates are directed by an active suppression of the expression of transcription factors and receptors that direct the alternative fate.

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