The role of ARX in cortical development


Professor Jamel Chelly, Laboratoire de Génétique et Physiopathologie des Retards Mentaux, Institut Cochin, 24 rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques, 75014 Paris, France.


The ARX protein (encoded by the aristaless-related homeobox gene) is a member of the paired class of homeoproteins. More precisely, it is a member of the Aristaless subclass of proteins with a glutamine residue (Q) at the critical position 50 of the homeodomain (Q50). Through identification of diverse inherited or de novo mutations, genetic investigations of X-linked mental retardation conditions have demonstrated the implication of ARXin a wide spectrum of disorders extending from phenotypes with severe neuronal migration defects, such as lissencephaly, to mild forms of X-linked mental retardation without apparent brain abnormalities. These investigations have recently directed attention to the role of this gene in brain development. Analysis of its spatiotemporal localization profile have revealed expression mainly in telencephalic structures at all stages of development. Interestingly, in adult, ARX expression becomes restricted to a population of GABAergic neurons. Although the identification of the target genes regulated by ARX remains a crucial step to better understanding its role during brain development, studies of the role of ARX orthologs in different models have indicated that it is essential for important developmental processes such as proliferation, cell differentiation and neuronal migration.