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Published April 5, 2002 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

The bHLH Transcription Factors OLIG2 and OLIG1 Couple Neuronal and Glial Subtype Specification


OLIG1 and OLIG2 are basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors expressed in the pMN domain of the spinal cord, which sequentially generates motoneurons and oligodendrocytes. In Olig1/2 double-mutant mice, motoneurons are largely eliminated, and oligodendrocyte differentiation is abolished. Lineage tracing data suggest that Olig1−/−2−/− pMN progenitors instead generate V2 interneurons and then astrocytes. This apparent conversion likely reflects independent roles for OLIG1/2 in specifying motoneuron and oligodendrocyte fates. Olig genes therefore couple neuronal and glial subtype specification, unlike proneural bHLH factors that control the neuron versus glia decision. Our results suggest that in the spinal cord, Olig and proneural genes comprise a combinatorial code for the specification of neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes, the three fundamental cell types of the central nervous system.

Additional Information

© 2002 Cell Press. Under an Elsevier user license. Received: November 28, 2001; Revised: February 13, 2002; Published online: March 11, 2002. We thank Drs. Richard Lu, Charles Stiles, and David Rowitch for communicating unpublished results and Tom Jessell for advice, reagents, helpful discussions, and critical comments on the manuscript. We are also grateful to Shirley Peace and Bruce Kennedy of the Caltech Transgenic Facility, Joana Yamada for technical assistance, and Gaby Mosconi for laboratory management. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant RO1-NS23476. D.J.A. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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