Olig2+ precursors produce abducens motor neurons and oligodendrocytes in the zebrafish hindbrain.
During development, a specific subset of ventral spinal cord precursors called pMN cells produces first motor neurons and then oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), which migrate, divide and differentiate as myelinating oligodendrocytes. pMN cells express the Olig2 transcription factor and Olig2 function is necessary for formation of spinal motor neurons and OPCs. In the hindbrain and midbrain, distinct classes of visceral, branchiomotor and somatic motor neurons are organized as discrete nuclei, and OPCs are broadly distributed. Mouse embryos deficient for Olig2 function lack somatic motor neurons and OPCs, but it is not clear whether this reflects a common origin for these cells, similar to spinal cord, or independent requirements for Olig2 function in somatic motor neuron and OPC development. We investigated cranial motor neuron and OPC development in zebrafish and found, using a combination of transgenic reporters and cell type specific antibodies, that somatic abducens motor neurons and a small subset of OPCs arise from common olig2(+) neuroepithelial precursors in rhombomeres r5 and r6, but that all other motor neurons and OPCs do not similarly develop from shared pools of olig2(+) precursors. In the absence of olig2 function, r5 and r6 precursors remain in the cell cycle and fail to produce abducens motor neurons, and OPCs are entirely lacking in the hindbrain. These studies, therefore, reveal both common and independent roles for olig2 in development of somatic motor neurons and oligodendrocytes of the hindbrain.