Neurogenin1 (Ngn1), Neurogenin2 (Ngn2), and Mash1 encode bHLH transcription factors with neuronal determination functions. In the telencephalon, the Ngns and Mash1 are expressed at high levels in complementary dorsal and ventral domains, respectively. We found that Ngn function is required to maintain these two separate expression domains, as Mash1 expression is up-regulated in the dorsal telencephalon of Ngn mutant embryos. We have taken advantage of the replacement of the Ngns by Mash1 in dorsal progenitors to address the role of the neural determination genes in neuronal-type specification in the telencephalon. In Ngn2 single and Ngn1; Ngn2 double mutants, a population of early born cortical neurons lose expression of dorsal-specific markers and ectopically express a subset of ventral telencephalic-specific markers. Analysis of Mash1; Ngn2 double mutant embryos and of embryos carrying a Ngn2 to Mash1 replacement mutation demonstrated that ectopic expression of Mash1 is required and sufficient to confer these ventral characteristics to cortical neurons. Our results indicate that in addition to acting as neuronal determinants, Mash1 and Ngns play a role in the specification of dorsal-ventral neuronal identity, directly linking pathways of neurogenesis and regional patterning in the forebrain.
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