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Dev Biol. 2000 Jul 15;223(2):422-30.

The homeobox gene Hesx1 is required in the anterior neural ectoderm for normal forebrain formation.

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Division of Mammalian Development, National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, London, NW7 1AA, United Kingdom.


The homeobox gene Hesx1 is expressed in the anterior visceral endoderm (AVE), anterior axial mesendoderm (AME), and anterior neural ectoderm (ANE) during early mouse embryogenesis. Previous studies have shown that Hesx1 is essential for normal murine forebrain development. Hesx1 homozygous mutants showed variable forebrain truncations ranging from mild to severe lack of forebrain tissue. Here, we have investigated the requirement of Hesx1 in the AVE, AME, and ANE using chimeric and in situ hybridization analyses to understand better the nature of the forebrain defects. Chimeric embryos composed predominantly of Hesx1(+/+) cells developing within Hesx1(-/-) visceral endoderm showed no evident forebrain abnormalities. In contrast, injection of Hesx1(-/-) ES cells into wild-type blastocysts gave rise to chimeras with forebrain defects similar to those observed in the Hesx1(-/-) mutants. RNA in situ hybridization analysis showed that the AVE and AME markers Cerrl, Lim1, and Shh were normally expressed in 6.5- and 7.5-dpc Hesx1(-/-) mutants. Expression of the ANE markers Six3 and Rax/Rx was also unperturbed in the Hesx1(-/-) mutants from late gastrula to late headfold stages. However, transcripts for both genes were markedly reduced by the early somite stage, about 24 h after Hesx1 is first expressed in the ANE. Therefore, Hesx1 seems to be required autonomously in the ANE for normal forebrain formation.

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