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Development. 2000 Sep;127(17):3703-13.

Functional equivalence of the transcription factors Pax2 and Pax5 in mouse development.

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Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Dr Bohr-Gasse 7, A-1030 Vienna, Austria.


Pax2 and Pax5 arose by gene duplication at the onset of vertebrate evolution and have since diverged in their developmental expression patterns. They are expressed in different organs of the mouse embryo except for their coexpression at the midbrain-hindbrain boundary (MHB), which functions as an organizing center to control midbrain and cerebellum development. During MHB development, Pax2 expression is initiated prior to Pax5 transcription, and Pax2(-/-) embryos fail to generate the posterior midbrain and cerebellum, whereas Pax5(-/-) mice exhibit only minor patterning defects in the same brain regions. To investigate whether these contrasting phenotypes are caused by differences in the temporal expression or biochemical activity of these two transcription factors, we have generated a knock-in (ki) mouse, which expresses a Pax5 minigene under the control of the Pax2 locus. Midbrain and cerebellum development was entirely rescued in Pax2(5ki/5ki) embryos. Pax5 could furthermore completely substitute for the Pax2 function during morphogenesis of the inner ear and genital tracts, despite the fact that the Pax5 transcript of the Pax2(5ki )allele was expressed only at a fivefold lower level than the wild-type Pax2 mRNA. As a consequence, the Pax2(5ki )allele was able to rescue most but not all Pax2 mutant defects in the developing eye and kidney, both of which are known to be highly sensitive to Pax2 protein dosage. Together these data demonstrate that the transcription factors Pax2 and Pax5 have maintained equivalent biochemical functions since their divergence early in vertebrate evolution.

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