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Mech Dev. 1999 Jun;84(1-2):31-40.

Six6 (Optx2) is a novel murine Six3-related homeobox gene that demarcates the presumptive pituitary/hypothalamic axis and the ventral optic stalk.

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Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry, Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Göttingen, Germany.


We report on the isolation of a murine homeobox-containing gene, Six6 (Optx2), that shows extended identity in its coding region with Six3, the only member of the mammalian Six gene family known to be expressed in the optic primordium. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrates that Six6 and Six3 belong to a separate group of homeobox-genes that are closely related to the recently identified Drosophila optix. Earliest Six6 expression was detected in the floor of the diencephalic portion of the primitive forebrain, a region predicted to give rise to the neurohypophysis and to the hypothalamus. Later on, Six6 mRNA was found in the primordial tissues giving rise to the mature pituitary: the Rathke's pouch and the infundibular recess. In the optic primordium, Six6 demarcates the presumptive ventral optic stalk and the ventral portion of the future neural retina. In the developing eye. Six6 expression was detected in the neural retina, the optic chiasma and optic stalk, but not in the lens. When compared to Six6, Six3 expression pattern was highly similar, but with a generally broader transcripts distribution in the brain and in the visual system. We finally show that Six6 does not require Pax6 for its expression in the optic primordium, suggesting that Six6 acts on a parallel and/or independent pathway with Pax6 in the genetic cascade governing early development of the eye.

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