Homeobox gene Pitx3 and its role in the development of dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra
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The homeobox gene Pitx3 plays an important part in the development and function of vertebrate midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Re-localization of the genetic defect in the mouse mutant aphakia to the Pitx3 locus, together with the subsequent identification of two deletions causing the gene to be silent, has been the hallmark of several studies into the role of Pitx3. In this review, we summarize the data and reflect on the role of Pitx3 in the development of dopamine neurons in the midbrain. The data indicate that Pitx3 is essential for the survival of dopamine neurons located in the substantia nigra compacta during development. Molecular analysis of the underlying mechanisms might provide new insights for understanding the selective degeneration observed in Parkinson patients.