ULB elucidates part of brain construction process

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The construction during the embryogenesis of the cerebral cortex, the main site of cognitive functions, remains a mysterious process: at present, only a few transcription factors essential for the development of this part of the brain have been identified and their mechanism of action remains poorly known.

The Laboratory of Genetics of Development (Eric Bellefroid, Biopark, Faculty of Sciences, ULB) has been studying for some years some of these factors, including “Dmrt5”. The researchers had already demonstrated that Dmrt5 is essential in the very early stages of brain formation for the establishment of a small group of cells located between the telencephalic vesicles (at the origin of the cortex) that function as a signal center to organize their development.

In a publication of Cerebral Cortex, the team now demonstrates that Dmrt5 and its “cousin” Dmrt3 are also important later in development, this time within the progenitor cells of the cortex. Their level of expression would be particularly crucial for the specification of the neocortex in specific areas, each possessing a specific structure and a particular function (motor, sensory or visual).

Dmrt5 has recently been associated with brain developmental anomalies (microcephaly) in humans: the elucidation of the mechanism of action of Dmrts factors is therefore important to better understand the functioning and evolution, but also certain pathologies of the brain.