Can Clues from Evolution Unlock the Molecular Development of the Cerebellum?

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The cerebellum sits at the rostral end of the vertebrate hindbrain and is responsible for sensory and motor integration. Owing to its relatively simple architecture, it is one of the most powerful model systems for studying brain evolution and development. Over the last decade, the combination of molecular fate mapping techniques in the mouse and experimental studies, both in vitro and in vivo, in mouse and chick have significantly advanced our understanding of cerebellar neurogenesis in space and time. In amniotes, the most numerous cell type in the cerebellum, and indeed the brain, is the cerebellar granule neurons, and these are born from a transient secondary proliferative zone, the external granule layer (EGL), where proliferation is driven by sonic hedgehog signalling and causes cerebellar foliation. Recent studies in zebrafish and sharks have shown that while the molecular mechanisms of neurogenesis appear conserved across vertebrates, the EGL as a site of shh-driven transit amplification is not, and is therefore implicated as a key amniote innovation that facilitated the evolution of the elaborate foliated cerebella found in birds and mammals. Ellucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the origin of the EGL in evolution could have significant impacts on our understanding of the molecular details of cerebellar development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67 - 76
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


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