Duggan, C.D., Demaria, S., Baudhuin, A., Stafford, D., and Ngai, J. (2008) Foxg1 is required for development of the vertebrate olfactory system. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 28(20):5229-5239.
Illuminating the molecular identity and regulation of early progenitor cells in the olfactory sensory epithelium represents an important challenge in the field of neural development. We show in both mouse and zebrafish that the winged helix transcription factor Foxg1 is expressed in an early progenitor population of the olfactory placode. In the mouse, Foxg1 is first expressed throughout the olfactory placode but later becomes restricted to the ventrolateral olfactory epithelium. The essential role of Foxg1 in olfactory development is demonstrated by the strikingly severe phenotype of Foxg1 knock-out mice: older embryos have no recognizable olfactory structures, including epithelium, bulb, or vomeronasal organs. Initially, a small number of olfactory progenitors are specified but show defects in both proliferation and differentiation. Similarly, antisense RNA knockdown of Foxg1 expression in the zebrafish shows a reduction in the number of neurons and mitotic cells in olfactory rosettes, mirroring the phenotype seen in the mouse Foxg1 null mutant. Using mosaic analysis in the zebrafish, we show that Foxg1 is required cell-autonomously for the production of mature olfactory receptor neurons. Therefore, we identified an evolutionarily conserved requirement for Foxg1 in the development of the vertebrate olfactory system.