The ophthalmic trigeminal placode (opV) exclusively gives rise to sensory neurons. A number of signaling pathways including Wnt, PDGF, FGF, and Notch are all involved in the progression of an undifferentiated cell in the opV placode to a proneural cell in the condensing opV ganglion. However, the regulatory relationships between these signal transduction pathways are still unknown. To determine if FGF activation acts to modulate Notch signaling in the sensory neurogenesis pathway, a novel multifactorial approach was employed: FGF signaling was inhibited in individual cells and globally with simultaneous inactivation of Notch signaling in chick embryos to investigate if FGF activation downregulates Notch thereby driving neurogenesis. These experiments resulted in few differentiating opV cells in the mesenchymal region of future ganglion formation suggesting an alternate regulatory relationship between FGF and Notch where either reduced Notch activity allows for FGFR4 expression (leading to FGF signaling and neurogenesis), or a parallel relationship where FGF and Notch act independently of one another to induce neurogenesis. To distinguish between these two possibilities Notch signaling was inhibited with DAPT, a gamma-secretase inhibitor, and assayed for FGFR4 mRNA expression. These results indicated FGFR4 is not upregulated by reduced Notch activity, suggesting that FGF and Notch act in parallel to promote neurogenesis. During these experiments it was observed that Notch inhibition resulted in an undefined ectoderm in the opV placode region. To investigate this, FGF and Notch were inhibited by SU5402, an FGF antagonist, and DAPT, and later sectioned and stained for Laminin. In DAPT treated embryos the basement membrane became highly fragmented, a remarkable observation not yet reported. From these data a proposed mechanism was established where activation of FGF with parallel downregulation of Notch leads to disruption of extracellular matrix proteins in the basement membrane resulting in fragmentation and subsequent delamination of differentiating opV placode cells.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Physiology and Developmental Biology



Date Submitted


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sensory neurogenesis, trigeminal ophthalmic placode, FGF signaling, Notch signaling, multifactorial