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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Novel lines of Pax6-/- embryonic stem cells exhibit reduced neurogenic capacity without loss of viability

Jane C Quinn12*, Michael Molinek1, Tomasz J Nowakowski1, John O Mason1 and David J Price1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh, Hugh Robson Building, George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9XD, UK

2 School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Boorooma Street, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales 2678, Australia

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-26

Published: 24 February 2010



Embryonic stem (ES) cells can differentiate into all cell types and have been used extensively to study factors affecting neuronal differentiation. ES cells containing mutations in known genes have the potential to provide useful in vitro models for the study of gene function during neuronal differentiation. Recently, mouse ES cell lines lacking the neurogenic transcription factor Pax6 were reported; neurons derived from these Pax6-/- ES cells died rapidly after neuronal differentiation in vitro.


Here we report the derivation of new lines of Pax6-/- ES cells and the assessment of their ability to survive and differentiate both in vitro and in vivo. Neurons derived from our new Pax6-/- lines were viable and continued to elaborate processes in culture under conditions that resulted in the death of neurons derived from previously reported Pax6-/- ES cell lines. The new lines of Pax6-/-ES cells showed reduced neurogenic potential, mimicking the effects of loss of Pax6 in vivo. We used our new lines to generate Pax6-/- Pax6+/+ chimeras in which the mutant cells survived and displayed the same phenotypes as Pax6-/- cells in Pax6-/- Pax6+/+ chimeras made by embryo aggregation.


We suggest that loss of Pax6 from ES cells reduces their neurogenic capacity but does not necessarily result in the death of derived neurons. We offer these new lines as additional tools for those interested in the generation of chimeras and the analysis of in vitro ES cell models of Pax6 function during neuronal differentiation, embryonic and postnatal development.