A variety of neurons or nerve cells makes it possible for you to approach the stage and even find a seat without sight. Several of those neurons migrate from an embryonic structure called the rhombic lip, and many of these in the auditory, vestibular and proprioreceptive (sense of position in space) systems come into being because of a single gene called Math1, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in a report in the current issue of the journal Neuron.
"These three systems all seem to have a similar function. They all help us coordinate body perception and movement in space. Now we know that one gene specifies the majority of these neurons that this one gene has been conserved during evolution to execute this task, said Dr. Huda Zoghbi, BCM professor of pediatrics and molecular and human genetics as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
Zoghbi led the team that found the Math1 gene a few years ago and at that time, determined that it was important for the formation of hair cells in the inner ear and some neurons in the cerebellum and intestine.
Now, mouse studies carried out by her and two graduate students, Matthew Rose and Vincent Y. Wang, demonstrate that Math1 plays a pivotal role in the formation of many of the neurons important in carrying hearing and vestibular and balance signals after they have been received and transmitted by the inner ear hair cells. The gene also specifies neurons that coordinate balance of body parts.