Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 221, Issue 2, pp 815–838 | Cite as

Crypto-rhombomeres of the mouse medulla oblongata, defined by molecular and morphological features

  • Laura Tomás-Roca
  • Rubén Corral-San-Miguel
  • Pilar Aroca
  • Luis Puelles
  • Faustino MarínEmail author
Original Article


The medulla oblongata is the caudal portion of the vertebrate hindbrain. It contains major ascending and descending fiber tracts as well as several motor and interneuron populations, including neural centers that regulate the visceral functions and the maintenance of bodily homeostasis. In the avian embryo, it has been proposed that the primordium of this region is subdivided into five segments or crypto-rhombomeres (r7–r11), which were defined according to either their parameric position relative to intersomitic boundaries (Cambronero and Puelles, in J Comp Neurol 427:522–545, 2000) or a stepped expression of Hox genes (Marín et al., in Dev Biol 323:230–247, 2008). In the present work, we examine the implied similar segmental organization of the mouse medulla oblongata. To this end, we analyze the expression pattern of Hox genes from groups 3 to 8, comparing them to the expression of given cytoarchitectonic and molecular markers, from mid-gestational to perinatal stages. As a result of this approach, we conclude that the mouse medulla oblongata is segmentally organized, similarly as in avian embryos. Longitudinal structures such as the nucleus of the solitary tract, the dorsal vagal motor nucleus, the hypoglossal motor nucleus, the descending trigeminal and vestibular columns, or the reticular formation appear subdivided into discrete segmental units. Additionally, our analysis identified an internal molecular organization of the migrated pontine nuclei that reflects a differential segmental origin of their neurons as assessed by Hox gene expression.


Rhombomeres Medulla oblongata Hox Brain segmentation Neuromeres Sensory columns 



Trigeminal motor nucleus


Abducens motor nucleus


Abducens nerve fibers


Facial motor nucleus


Ascending facial nerve fibers


Facial nerve genus


Descending facial nerve fibers


Dorsal vagal motor nucleus


Vagal nerve fibers


Hypoglossal motor nucleus


Hypoglossal nerve fibers


Ambiguus motor nucleus


Area postrema


Dorsal cochlear nucleus


Dorsal column nuclei


External cuneate nucleus


Gigantocellular reticular nucleus


Inferior olive


Intermediate reticular nucleus


Lateral reticular nucleus


Ventral medullary reticular nucleus


Dorsal medullary reticular nucleus


Medial vestibular nucleus


Medial longitudinal fascicle


Parvicellular reticular nucleus


Pyramidal decussation


Basilar pontine nuclei


Caudal pontine reticular nucleus


Pontine raphe nucleus


Periolivary region


Prepontine raphe nucleus


Prepositus nucleus




Retroambiguus nucleus


Raphe magnus nucleus, ventral part


Raphe magnus nucleus, dorsal part


Roller nucleus


Raphe obscurus nucleus


Raphe pallidus nucleus


Reticular tegmental nucleus


Rostroventrolateral reticular nucleus


Spinal cord


Nucleus of the solitary tract


Interpolar trigeminal nucleus


Caudal trigeminal nucleus


Spinal vestibular nucleus


Trapezoid body


Ventral horn



We thank C. Reyes Mendoza, M. Carmen Fernández, M. Carmen Morga and Isabel Piqueras for technical assistance. This study has been supported by a contract 04548-GERM-06 from the Fundación Séneca of the Government of the Murcia Region and grant MICINN-BFU2008-04156 from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation to L.P. L.T-R. and R.C–S-M were recipient of respective predoctoral fellowships from the above-mentioned Fundación Séneca contract. We also thank RZPD, imaGenes GmbH and Geneservice Ltd for providing cDNA clones; and, Allen Institute for Brain Science, and The Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas (GENSAT) database projects for providing part of the images analyzed in this work. The 3A10 antibody developed by T.M. Jessell and J. Dodd was obtained from the Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank developed under the auspices of the NICHD and maintained by The University of Iowa, Department of Biology, Iowa City, IA, USA. cDNA clones were sequenced by the Molecular Biology Lab of the SAI (Servicio de Apoyo a la Investigación) at the University of Murcia.

Conflict of interest

The authors state that no conflict of interest is involved in the present publication.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Tomás-Roca
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rubén Corral-San-Miguel
    • 1
  • Pilar Aroca
    • 1
  • Luis Puelles
    • 1
  • Faustino Marín
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Human Anatomy and Psychobiology, School of MedicineUniversity of Murcia, and IMIB (Instituto Murciano de Investigación Biosanitaria)MurciaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Human Genetics, Nijmegen Center for Molecular Life SciencesRadboud University Medical CenterNijmegenThe Netherlands

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