Fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) has been implicated in various signaling processes which control embryonic growth and differentiation, adult physiology and pathology. To analyze the in vivo functions of this signaling molecule, the FGF-2 gene was inactivated by homologous recombination in mouse embryonic stem cells. FGF-2-deficient mice are viable, but display cerebral cortex defects at birth. Bromodeoxyuridine pulse labeling of embryos showed that proliferation of neuronal progenitors is normal, whereas a fraction of them fail to colonize their target layers in the cerebral cortex. A corresponding reduction in parvalbumin-positive neurons is observed in adult cortical layers. Neuronal defects are not limited to the cerebral cortex, as ectopic parvalbumin-positive neurons are present in the hippocampal commissure and neuronal deficiencies are observed in the cervical spinal cord. Physiological studies showed that FGF-2-deficient adult mice are hypotensive. They respond normally to angiotensin II-induced hypertension, whereas neural regulation of blood pressure by the baroreceptor reflex is impaired. The present genetic study establishes that FGF-2 participates in controlling fates, migration and differentiation of neuronal cells, whereas it is not essential for their proliferation. The observed autonomic dysfunction in FGF-2-deficient adult mice uncovers more general roles in neural development and function.
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