Diencephalic fate specification
The diencephalon arises from the posterior prosencephalon and forms the hypothalamus, the prethalamus, the thalamus, the epithalamus, and the pretectum. These brain structures are vital to a variety of body functions such as the regulation of the endocrine system or the relaying of senses and motor signals.
A fate-mapping study in our lab (Staudt and Houart, 2007) has helped to reveal the neural plate origins of cells that give rise to these diencephalic territories. The study demonstrated that very little mixing occurs between distinct cell populations and that cells of the prospective prethalamus are functionally specified and irreplaceable as early as the late neural plate stage.
In an effort to unravel the genetic components of this specification, we have isolated and RNA-profiled cells of the diencephalic anlage and compared their transcriptome to this of the presumptive midbrain. Currently, we are allocating gene expression profiles to the cell populations defined by fate-mapping. We are identifying areas of restricted pathway activities and are assessing gene function for specific candidates.