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Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2000 Jun;20(3):269-90.

Temporal and spatial expression of Hoxa-2 during murine palatogenesis.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.


1. Mice homozygous for a targeted mutation of the Hoxa-2 gene are born with a bilateral cleft of the secondary palate associated with multiple head and cranial anomalies and these animals die within 24 hr of birth (Gendron-Maguire et al., 1993; Rijli et al., 1993; Mallo and Gridley, 1996). We have determined the spatial and temporal expression of the Hoxa-2 homeobox protein in the developing mouse palate at embryonic stages E12, E13, E13.5, E14, E14.5, and E15. 2. Hoxa-2 is expressed in the mesenchyme and epithelial cells of the palate at E12, but is progressively restricted to the tips of the growing palatal shelves at E13. 3. By the E13.5 stage of development, Hoxa-2 protein was found to be expressed throughout the palatal shelf. These observations correlate with palatal shelf orientation and Hoxa-2 protein may play a direct or indirect role in guiding the palatal shelves vertically along side the tongue, starting with the tips of the palatal shelves at E13, followed by the entire palatal shelf at E13.5. 4. As development progresses to E14, the stage at which shelf elevation occurs, Hoxa-2 protein is downregulated in the palatal mesenchyme but remains in the medial edge epithelium. Expression of Hoxa-2 continues in the medial edge epithelium until the fusion of opposing palatal shelves. 5. By the E15 stage of development, Hoxa-2 is downregulated in the palate and expression is localized in the nasal and oral epithelia. 6. In an animal model of phenytoin-induced cleft palate, we report that Hoxa-2 mRNA and protein expression were significantly decreased, implicating a possible functional role of the Hoxa-2 gene in the development of phenytoin-induced cleft palate. 7. A recent report by Barrow and Capecchi (1999), has illustrated the importance of tongue posture during palatal shelf closure in Hoxa-2 mutant mice. This along with our new findings of the expression of the Hoxa-2 protein during palatogenesis has shed some light on the putative role of this gene in palate development.

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