Inductive signals and transcription factors involved in motor neuron generation have been identified, raising the question of whether these developmental insights can be used to direct stem cells to a motor neuron fate. We show that developmentally relevant signaling factors can induce mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells to differentiate into spinal progenitor cells, and subsequently into motor neurons, through a pathway recapitulating that used in vivo. ES cell-derived motor neurons can populate the embryonic spinal cord, extend axons, and form synapses with target muscles. Thus, inductive signals involved in normal pathways of neurogenesis can direct ES cells to form specific classes of CNS neurons.
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