The Role of the ETS Gene PEA3 in the Development of Motor and Sensory Neurons

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The ETS family of transcription factors includes two members, ER81 and PEA3, which are expressed in groups of sensory and motor neurons supplying individual muscles. To investigate a possible role of these genes in determining sensory and/or motor neuron phenotype, we studied mice in which each of these genes was deleted. In contrast to the deletion of ER81, which blocks the formation of projections from muscle sensory neurons to motor neurons in the spinal cord, deletion of PEA3 causes no obvious effects on sensory neurons or on their synaptic connections with motor neurons. PEA3 does play a major role in the formation of some brachial motoneurons however. Motoneurons innervating the cutaneous maximus muscle, which are normally PEA3+, fail to develop normally so that postnatally the muscle is innervated by few motoneurons and is severely atrophic. Other studies suggest that these motoneurons initially appear during development but fail to contact their normal muscle targets.



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