Gaskell revisited: new insights into spinal autonomics necessitate a revised motor neuron nomenclature
Hindbrain development is orchestrated by a vertebrate gene regulatory network that generates segmental patterning along the anterior-posterior axis via Hox genes. Here, we review analyses of vertebrate and invertebrate chordate models that inform upon the evolutionary origin and diversification of this network. Evidence from the sea lamprey reveals that the hindbrain regulatory network generates rhombomeric compartments with segmental Hox expression and an underlying Hox code. We infer that this basal feature was present in ancestral vertebrates and, as an evolutionarily constrained developmental state, is fundamentally important for patterning of the vertebrate hindbrain across diverse lineages. Despite the common ground plan, vertebrates exhibit neuroanatomical diversity in lineage-specific patterns, with different vertebrates revealing variations of Hox expression in the hindbrain that could underlie this diversification. Invertebrate chordates lack hindbrain segmentation but exhibit some conserved aspects of this network, with retinoic acid signaling playing a role in establishing nested domains of Hox expression.