The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 62: 807 - 818 (2018)

Vol 62, Issue 11-12

Special Issue: Homeobox genes

Emerging roles for HOX proteins in synaptogenesis

Published: 14 December 2018

Françoise Gofflot* and Benoit Lizen

Louvain Institute of Biomolecular Science and Technology (LIBST), Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain la Neuve, Belgium


Neural circuit formation requires the intricate orchestration of multiple developmental events including cell fate specification, cell migration, axon guidance, dendritic growth, synaptic target selection, and synaptogenesis. The HOX proteins are well-known transcriptional regulators that control embryonic development. Investigations into their action in the vertebrate central nervous system have demonstrated pivotal roles in specifying neural subpopulations, but also in several successive steps required for the assembly of neuronal circuitry, such as neuron migration, axon growth and pathfinding and synaptic target selection. Several lines of evidence suggest that the HOX transcription factors could also regulate synaptogenesis processes even after the process of axonal and dendritic guidance has concluded. Here we will review the current data on HOX proteins in neural circuit formation in order to evaluate their potential roles in establishing neuronal connectivity with specific emphasis on synapse formation and maturation.


transcription factor, neuronal connectivity, synapse assembly, synaptic refinement, synapse pathology

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