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Keywords:

  • auditory brainstem;
  • fate mapping;
  • lineage;
  • rhombomere;
  • superior olivary complex

Many areas of the central nervous system are organized into clusters of cell groups, with component cell groups exhibiting diverse but related functions. One such cluster, the superior olivary complex (SOC), is located in the ventral auditory brainstem in mammals. The SOC is an obligatory contact point for most projection neurons of the ventral cochlear nucleus and plays central roles in many aspects of monaural and binaural information processing. Despite their important interrelated functions, little is known about the embryonic origins of SOC nuclei, due in part to a paucity of developmental markers to distinguish individual cell groups. In this report, we present a collection of novel markers for the developing SOC nuclei in mice, including the transcription factors FoxP1, MafB, and Sox2, and the lineage-marking transgenic line En1-Cre. We use these definitive markers to examine the rhombic lip and rhombomeric origins of SOC nuclei and demonstrate that they can serve to uniquely identify SOC nuclei and subnuclei in newborn pups. The markers are also useful in identifying distinct nuclear domains within the presumptive SOC as early as embryonic day (E) 14.5, well before morphological distinction of individual nuclei is evident. These findings indicate that the mediolateral and dorsoventral position of SOC nuclei characteristic of the adult brainstem is established during early neurogenesis. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 73: 384–398, 2013