olig2-Expressing hindbrain cells are required for migrating facial motor neurons.
The complicated trajectory of facial motor neuron migration requires coordination of intrinsic signals and cues from the surrounding environment. Migration begins in rhombomere (r) 4 where facial motor neurons are born and proceeds in a caudal direction. Once facial motor neurons reach their target rhombomeres, they migrate laterally and radially from the ventral neural tube. In zebrafish, as facial motor neurons migrate through r5/r6, they pass near cells that express olig2, which encodes a bHLH transcription factor. In this study, we found that olig2 function is required for facial motor neurons to complete their caudal migration into r6 and r7 and form stereotypical clusters. Additionally, embryos that lack mafba function, in which facial motor neurons also fail to complete caudal migration, lack olig2 expression in r5 and r6. Our data raise the possibility that cells expressing olig2 are intermediate targets that help guide facial motor neuron migration.