Previous work has demonstrated that the character of mouse cortical interneuron subtypes can be directly related to their embryonic temporal and spatial origins. The relationship between embryonic origin and the character of mature interneurons is likely reflected by the developmental expression of genes that direct cell fate. However, a thorough understanding of the early genetic events that specify subtype identity has been hampered by the perinatal lethality resulting from the loss of genes implicated in the determination of cortical interneurons. Here, we employ a conditional loss-of-function approach to demonstrate that the transcription factor Nkx2-1 is required for the proper specification of specific interneuron subtypes. Removal of this gene at distinct neurogenic time points results in a switch in the subtypes of neurons observed at more mature ages. Our strategy reveals a causal link between the embryonic genetic specification by Nkx2-1 in progenitors and the functional attributes of their neuronal progeny in the mature nervous system.
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