Bcl11a is required for neuronal morphogenesis and sensory circuit formation in dorsal spinal cord development

Anita John, Heike Brylka, Christoph Wiegreffe, Ruth Simon, Pentao Liu, René Jüttner, III Bryan Crenshaw, Frank P. Luyten, Nancy A. Jenkins, Neal G. Copeland, Carmen Birchmeier, Stefan Britsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Dorsal spinal cord neurons receive and integrate somatosensory information provided by neurons located in dorsal root ganglia. Here we demonstrate that dorsal spinal neurons require the Krüppel-C 2H 2 zinc-finger transcription factor Bcl11a for terminal differentiation and morphogenesis. The disrupted differentiation of dorsal spinal neurons observed in Bcl11a mutant mice interferes with their correct innervation by cutaneous sensory neurons. To understand the mechanism underlying the innervation deficit, we characterized changes in gene expression in the dorsal horn of Bcl11a mutants and identified dysregulated expression of the gene encoding secreted frizzled-related protein 3 (sFRP3, or Frzb). Frzb mutant mice show a deficit in the innervation of the spinal cord, suggesting that the dysregulated expression of Frzb can account in part for the phenotype of Bcl11a mutants. Thus, our genetic analysis of Bcl11a reveals essential functions of this transcription factor in neuronal morphogenesis and sensory wiring of the dorsal spinal cord and identifies Frzb, a component of the Wnt pathway, as a downstream acting molecule involved in this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1831-1841
Number of pages11
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2012


  • Bcl11a (CTIP1)
  • Mouse
  • Neuronal differentiation
  • Spinal cord
  • Transcription factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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