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Gene Expr Patterns. 2004 May;4(3):289-95.

Spatial and temporal expression of Wnt and Dickkopf genes during murine lens development.

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  • 1Save Sight Institute, The University of Sydney, GPO Box 4337, Sydney Eye Hospital, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


Recent studies indicate a role for Wnt signalling in regulating lens cell differentiation (Stump et al., 2003). To further our understanding of this, we investigated the expression patterns of Wnts and Wnt signalling regulators, the Dickkopfs (Dkks), during murine lens development. In situ hybridisation showed that Wnt5a, Wnt5b, Wnt7a, Wnt7b, Wnt8a and Wnt8b genes are expressed throughout the early lens primordia. At embryonic day 14.5 (E14.5), Wnt5a, Wnt5b, Wnt7a, Wnt8a and Wnt8b are reduced in the primary fibres, whereas Wnt7b remains strongly expressed. This trend persists up to E15.5. At later embryonic stages, Wnt expression is predominantly localised to the epithelium and elongating cells at the lens equator. As fibre differentiation progresses, Wnt expression becomes undetectable in the cells of the lens cortex. The one exception is Wnt7b, which continues to be weakly expressed in cortical fibres. This pattern of expression continues through to early postnatal stages. However, by postnatal day 21 (P21), expression of all Wnts is distinctly weaker in the central lens epithelium compared with the equatorial region. This is most notable for Wnt5a, which is barely detectable in the central lens epithelium at P21. Dkk1, Dkk2 and Dkk3 have similar patterns of expression to each other and to the majority of the Wnts during lens development. This study shows that multiple Wnt and Dkk genes are expressed during lens development. Expression is predominantly in the epithelial compartment but is also associated, particularly in the case of Wnt7b, with early events in fibre differentiation.

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