22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11DS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with cranial nerve anomalies and disordered oropharyngeal function including pediatric dysphagia. Using the LgDel 22q11DS mouse model, we asked whether sensory neuron differentiation in the trigeminal ganglion (CNgV), which is essential for normal orofacial function, is disrupted. We did not detect changes in cranial placode cell translocation or neural crest migration at early stages of LgDel CNgV development. As the ganglion coalesces, however, proportions of placode-derived LgDel CNgV cells increase relative to neural crest cells. In addition, local aggregation of placode-derived cells increases and aggregation of neural crest-derived cells decreases in LgDel CNgV. This change in cell-cell relationships was accompanied by altered proliferation of placode-derived cells at E9.5, and premature neurogenesis from neural crest-derived precursors, reflected by increased frequency of asymmetric neurogenic divisions for neural crest-derived precursors by E10.5. These early differences in LgDel CNgV genesis prefigure changes in sensory neuron differentiation and gene expression by P8, when early signs of cranial nerve dysfunction associated with pediatric dysphagia are observed in LgDel mice. Apparently, 22q11 deletion destabilizes CNgV sensory neuron genesis and differentiation by increasing variability in cell-cell interaction, proliferation, and sensory neuron differentiation. This early developmental divergence and its consequences may contribute to oropharyngeal dysfunction including suckling, feeding and swallowing disruptions at birth and additional orofacial sensory/motor deficits throughout life.

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