The identity of motor neurons diverges markedly at different rostrocaudal levels of the spinal cord, but the signals that specify their fate remain poorly defined. We show that retinoid receptor activation in newly generated spinal motor neurons has a crucial role in specifying motor neuron columnar subtypes. Blockade of retinoid receptor signaling in brachial motor neurons inhibits lateral motor column differentiation and converts many of these neurons to thoracic columnar subtypes. Conversely, expression of a constitutively active retinoid receptor derivative impairs the differentiation of thoracic motor neuron columnar subtypes. These findings provide evidence for a regionally restricted role for retinoid signaling in the postmitotic specification of motor neuron columnar identity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas