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Genes Dev. 2002 Mar 15;16(6):676-80.

Rescue of neural tube defects in Pax-3-deficient embryos by p53 loss of function: implications for Pax-3- dependent development and tumorigenesis.

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  • 1Section on Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Pax-3 is a transcription factor that is expressed in the neural tube, neural crest, and dermomyotome. We previously showed that apoptosis is associated with neural tube defects (NTDs) in Pax-3-deficient Splotch (Sp/Sp) embryos. Here we show that p53 deficiency, caused by germ-line mutation or by pifithrin-alpha, an inhibitor of p53-dependent apoptosis, rescues not only apoptosis, but also NTDs, in Sp/Sp embryos. Pax-3 deficiency had no effect on p53 mRNA, but increased p53 protein levels. These results suggest that Pax-3 regulates neural tube closure by inhibiting p53-dependent apoptosis, rather than by inducing neural tube-specific gene expression.

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