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The mechanisms that control neural specification have been examined in many regions of the nervous system and reveal a high degree of conservation. Zinc finger transcription factors of the Prdm family that belong to the  SET  domain family of histone methyltransferases are known to play important roles in many developmental contexts and several members are deregulated in human diseases. In an in situ hybridization survey of the expression of PR domain containing genes in the Xenopus embryos, we found that several of them are strongly expressed and in a restricted manner in the  developing nervous system. One of them, Prdm12 is strongly and specifically expressed in the ventral spinal cord in p1 progenitors that give rise  to inhibitory premotor interneurons that have a crucial role in regulating the rythm of locomotion and are required for motor neuron survival. Using gain and loss of function in the frog and chick embryos, we found that one member of this family, Prdm12 plays an essential role in V1 cell fate specification. Our results provide insights about its mechanisms of action. Prdm12 is also expressed in specific brain regions and in cranial and dorsal root ganglia suggesting that it may also there play an important function in neuronal specification. Preliminary results obtained in the Xenopus embryo suggest that it plays also an essential function in sensory neurogenesis.

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