The role of Dlx homeogenes in early development of the olfactory pathway

Giorgio R. Merlo, Stefano Mantero, Ambra A. Zaghetto, Paolo Peretto, Sara Paina, Marianna Gozzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Development of the olfactory pathway requires interaction between cells and signals of different origin. Olfactory receptor neurons (ORN) in the olfactory placodes (OP) extend axons towards the forebrain (FB); with innervation taking place at a later time following degradation of the basement membrane. Cells from the OP migrate along ORN axons and differentiate into various elements, including ensheathing and Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH)+ cells. The importance of the olfactory connection and migration is highlighted by the severe endocrine phenotype in Kallmann's patients who lack this migratory pathway. Little is known about the genetic control of intrinsic ORN properties. Inactivation of the distalless-related Dlx5 prevents connections between ORNs and FB. Using a grafting approach we show that misguidance and lack of connectivity is due to intrinsic defects in ORN neurites and migratory cells (MgC), and not to environmental factors. These data point to a cell-autonomous function of Dlx5 in providing ORN axons with their connectivity properties. Dlx5 also marks a population of early MgC that partly overlaps with the GnRH+ population. In the absence of Dlx5 MgCs of the Dlx5+ lineage migrate, associated with PSA-NCAM+ axons, but fail to reach the FB as a consequence of the lack of axonal connection and not an inability to migrate. These data suggests that Dlx5 is not required to initiate migration and differentiation of MgCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-358
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Histology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • Axon
  • Dlx
  • GnRH
  • Kallmann
  • Migratory
  • Olfactory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Anatomy


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