Mice with null mutations of ciliary neurotrophic factor (Cntf) receptor alpha (Cntf-Ralpha), or cytokine-like factor 1 (Clf), one component of Cntf-II (a heterodimeric Cntf-Ralpha ligand), die as neonates from motor neuron loss affecting the facial nucleus and ventral horn of the lumbar spinal cord. Exposure to cardiotrophin-like cytokine (Clc), the other putative Cntf-II element, supports motor neuron survival in vitro and in ovo. Confirmation that Clc ablation induces an equivalent phenotype to Clf deletion would support a role for Clc in the functional Cntf-II complex. In this study, Clc knockout mice had decreased facial motility, did not suckle, died within 24 hours, and had 32% and 29% fewer motor neurons in the facial nucleus and lumbar ventral horn, respectively; thus, Clc is essential for motor neuron survival during development. The concordance of the Clc knockout phenotype with those of mice lacking Cntf-Ralpha or Clf bolsters the hypothesis that Clc participates in Cntf-II.
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