• Pax genes;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • segmental organization;
  • telencephalon;
  • diencephalon;
  • mesencephalon;
  • brain evolution


The onset and developmental dynamics of Pax3, Pax6, and Pax7 expressions were analyzed by immunohistochemical techniques in the central nervous system (CNS) of embryos, larvae, and recently metamorphosed juveniles of the urodele amphibian Pleurodeles waltl. During the embryonic period, the Pax proteins start being detectable in neuroepithelial domains. Subsequently, they become restricted to subsets of cells in distinct brain regions, maintaining different degrees of expression in late larvae and juvenile brains. Specifically, Pax6 is broadly expressed all along the urodele CNS (olfactory bulbs, pallium, basal ganglia, diencephalon, mesencephalic tegmentum, rhombencephalon, and spinal cord) and the developing olfactory organ and retina. Pax3 and Pax7 are excluded from the rostral forebrain and were usually observed in overlapping regions during embryonic development, whereas Pax3 expression is highly downregulated as development proceeds. Thus, Pax3 is restricted to the roof plate of prosomere 2, pretectum, optic tectum, rhombencephalon, and spinal cord. Comparatively, Pax7 was more conspicuous in all these regions. Pax7 cells were also found in the paraphysis, intermediate lobe of the hypophysis, and basal plate of prosomere 3. Our data show that the expression patterns of the three Pax genes studied are overall evolutionarily conserved, and therefore could unequivocally be used to identify subdivisions in the urodele brain similar to other vertebrates, which are not clearly discernable with classical techniques. In addition, the spatiotemporal sequences of expression provide indirect evidence of putative migratory routes across neuromeric limits and the alar–basal boundary. J. Comp. Neurol. 521:3913–3953, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.