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Keywords:

  • facial motor nucleus;
  • genu of facial nerve;
  • submandibular ganglion;
  • superior salivatory nucleus

Abstract

The adult facial nerve contains the axons from two populations of efferent neurons. First, the branchiomotor efferent neurons that innervate the muscles of the second arch. These neurons project out of the hindbrain in the motor root and form the facial motor nuclei. Second, the preganglionic efferent neurons that innervate the submandibular and pterygopalatine ganglia. These neurons project from the hindbrain via the intermediate nerve and form the superior salivatory nucleus. The motor neurons of the facial nerve are known to originate within rhombomeres 4 and 5. In the kreisler mouse mutant there is a specific disruption of the hindbrain -rhombomeres 5 and 6 appear to be absent. To investigate changes in the organization of the facial motor neurons in this mutant, we have used lipophilic dyes to trace the facial motor components both retrogradely and anterogradely. As expected, facial motor neurons are missing from rhombomere 5 in this mutant. In addition, the loss of these neurons correlates with the specific loss of the superior salivatory nucleus. In contrast, the branchiomeric neurons, that originate in rhombomere 4, appear to develop normally. This includes the caudal migration of their cell bodies forming the genu of the facial nerve. Our studies confirm that rhombomeres are critical to hindbrain development and that they are the fundamental unit at which motor neurons are specified.