A deficiency in RFX3 causes hydrocephalus associated with abnormal differentiation of ependymal cells

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Ciliated ependymal cells play central functions in the control of cerebrospinal fluid homeostasis in the mammalian brain, and defects in their differentiation or ciliated properties can lead to hydrocephalus. Regulatory factor X (RFX) transcription factors regulate genes required for ciliogenesis in the nematode, drosophila and mammals. We show here that Rfx3-deficient mice suffer from hydrocephalus without stenosis of the aqueduct of Sylvius. RFX3 is expressed strongly in the ciliated ependymal cells of the subcommissural organ (SCO), choroid plexuses (CP) and ventricular walls during embryonic and postnatal development. Ultrastructural analysis revealed that the hydrocephalus is associated with a general defect in CP differentiation and with severe agenesis of the SCO. The specialized ependymal cells of the CP show an altered epithelial organization, and the SCO cells lose their characteristic ultrastructural features and adopt aspects more typical of classical ependymal cells. These differentiation defects are associated with changes in the number of cilia, although no obvious ultrastructural defects of these cilia can be observed in adult mice. Moreover, agenesis of the SCO is associated with downregulation of SCO-spondin expression as early as E14.5 of embryonic development. These results demonstrate that RFX3 is necessary for ciliated ependymal cell differentiation in the mouse.

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