Hindbrain induction and patterning during early vertebrate development

Dale Frank*, Dalit Sela-Donenfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The hindbrain is a key relay hub of the central nervous system (CNS), linking the bilaterally symmetric half-sides of lower and upper CNS centers via an extensive network of neural pathways. Dedicated neural assemblies within the hindbrain control many physiological processes, including respiration, blood pressure, motor coordination and different sensations. During early development, the hindbrain forms metameric segmented units known as rhombomeres along the antero-posterior (AP) axis of the nervous system. These compartmentalized units are highly conserved during vertebrate evolution and act as the template for adult brainstem structure and function. TALE and HOX homeodomain family transcription factors play a key role in the initial induction of the hindbrain and its specification into rhombomeric cell fate identities along the AP axis. Signaling pathways, such as canonical-Wnt, FGF and retinoic acid, play multiple roles to initially induce the hindbrain and regulate Hox gene-family expression to control rhombomeric identity. Additional transcription factors including Krox20, Kreisler and others act both upstream and downstream to Hox genes, modulating their expression and protein activity. In this review, we will examine the earliest embryonic signaling pathways that induce the hindbrain and subsequent rhombomeric segmentation via Hox and other gene expression. We will examine how these signaling pathways and transcription factors interact to activate downstream targets that organize the segmented AP pattern of the embryonic vertebrate hindbrain.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)941-960
Number of pages20
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • FGF, Wnt and retinoic acid signaling
  • Hindbrain
  • Hox proteins
  • Meis and Pbx proteins
  • Neural specification and patterning
  • Rhombomere patterning


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