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Research Departments > Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Neurobiology department > Vertebrate Neurogenesis and Pattern Formation > Research Report

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Vertebrate Neurogenesis and Pattern Formation

Our work aims at defining the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control the development of the vertebrate nervous system, using as a model system the spinal cord of chicken and medaka fish embryos. We are interested in getting an integrated view of the coordination of processes such as cell cycle exit/progression and cell-type specification and differentiation during the course of central nervous system development. In particular, we are analysing the role of Sox transcription factors and several signalling pathways acting both within neural tissue and from the adjacent mesoderm (FGF, Wnt, retinoic acid, Shh and BMP).

investigacion Barbas Gonzalez

investigacion Barbas Gonzalez

investigacion Barbas Gonzalez

1. The role of SoxD transcription Factors

In order to address the process of neurogenesis and neuronal subtype specification, we use the vertebrate spinal cord as model system and, as an entry point, the functional analysis of the Sox family of transcription factors (especially SoxD and SoxE subgroups).

We have determined that Sox5 is involved in the development of neural crest cells both at early stages of cephalic neural crest formation (Perez-Alcala et al., 2004) and, later on, in neural and glial specification of the cranial ganglia (Morales et al., 2007). More recently, we have established the role of Sox5 in cell cycle control in neural precursors (Martínez-Morales et al., 2010).


2. The role of mesodermal signals regulating development of the neural tube.

Progressive maturation of paraxial mesoderm into somites is important to regulate the onset of several processes taking place during spinal cord development and we are currently working on two of them:

2.1. Regulating specification and delamination of neural crest cells

We are interested in the development of the transient and pluripotent population of neural crest cells (NCCs). In particular, we are aiming to determine the signals that control the timing of NCC specification and migration along the rostro-caudal axis and how those signals are integrated with the network of transcription factors involved in neural crest cells specification including Sox genes (Martínez-Morales et al 2011).


2.2. Regulating dorsoventral patterning.

Most relevant methodology:

  • Model systems:
    • Chick embryo
    • Medaka fish embryo

    investigacion Barbas Gonzalez

    • Mouse Embryo
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology and Experimental Embryology:
    • Analysis of gene expression and regulatory mechanisms (in situ hybridization, immunohystochemistry, quantitative PCR, promoter analysis).
    • Alteration of normal gene expression in vivo (electroporation, interference RNA, morpholinos, retoviruses, explants cultures)

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