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Am J Physiol. 1994 Apr;266(4 Pt 1):L448-54.

Identification of Hox genes in newborn lung and effects of gestational age and retinoic acid on their expression.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520.


Hox genes are sequence-specific DNA transcription factors, which are important in embryonic development and are expressed in a number of fetal tissues, including the lung. Additionally, retinoic acid (RA) has been shown to modulate Hox gene expression in a number of cell types. The specific aims of this study were to 1) identify those Hox genes expressed in newborn mouse lung using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), 2) study the ontogeny of Hox gene expression in fetal mouse and rat lung by Northern analysis using cDNAs for mouse Hox genes, and 3) study the effects of RA on whole lung Hox mRNA levels in cultured fetal rat lung explants. Our data show that 16 different homeobox genes are expressed in newborn mouse lung. This includes seven Hox genes not previously identified in lung, as well as the divergent homeobox gene Hex. Steady-state mRNA levels of Hox A5 (Hox 1.3), B5 (Hox 2.1), B6 (Hox 2.2), and B8 (Hox 2.4) decrease with advancing gestational age in mouse lungs (E14 to adult). Similarly, Hox A5, B5, and B6 follow the same decreasing pattern of expression with advancing gestational age in rat lungs (E15 to adult). RA treatment of E17 rat lung explants in culture resulted in a significant dose- and time-dependent increase in Hox A5, B5, and B6 mRNA levels. The highest mRNA levels were seen in explants treated with 1 x 10(-5) M RA for 4-16 h. We conclude that there are many homeobox genes expressed in developing rodent lung and that their mRNA levels are affected by both gestational age and RA.

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