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Mech Dev. 2001 Mar;101(1-2):271-7.

Molecular cloning and embryonic expression of Xenopus Six homeobox genes.

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Institute of Cell Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Hönggerberg, CH-8093, Zürich, Switzerland.


Six genes are vertebrate homologues of the homeobox-containing gene sine oculis, which plays an essential role in controlling Drosophila compound eye development. Here we report the identification and expression patterns of all three subfamilies of Xenopus Six genes. Two Six2 subfamily genes (Six1, Six2) showed very similar expression patterns in cranial ganglia, otic placodes and the eyes. Non-neural expression of Six1 and Six2 was observed with mesodermal head mesenchyme, somites and their derivatives, the muscle anlagen of the embryonic trunk. In addition, Six2 expression was also found with mesenchyme associated with the developing stomach and pronephros. Expression of Six3 subfamily genes (Six3.1, Six3.2, Six6.1, and Six6.2) was restricted to the developing head, where expression was especially observed in derivatives of the forebrain (eyes, optic stalks, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland). Interestingly, expression of all Six3 subfamily members but Six6.2 was also found with the pineal gland primordium and the tegmentum. Expression of Six4 subfamily genes (Six4.1, Six4.2) was present in the developing visceral arches, placodal derivatives (otic vesicle, olfactory system), head mesenchyme and the eye. The observed dynamic expression patterns are largely conserved between lower and higher vertebrates and imply important roles of Six family genes not only in eye formation and myogenesis, but also in the development of the gut, the kidney and of placode-derived structures.

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