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Mech Dev. 2001 Apr;102(1-2):157-67.

Xenopus Enhancer of Zeste (XEZ); an anteriorly restricted polycomb gene with a role in neural patterning.

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Cell and Molecular Development Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, CV4 7AL, Coventry, UK.


We have identified the Xenopus homologue of Drosophila Enhancer of Zeste using a differential display strategy designed to identify genes involved in early anterior neural differentiation. XEZ codes for a protein of 748 amino acids that is very highly conserved in evolution and is 96% identical to both human and mouse EZ(H)2. In common with most other Xenopus Pc-G genes and unlike mammalian Pc-G genes, XEZ is anteriorly restricted. Zygotic expression of XEZ commences during gastrulation, much earlier than other anteriorly localized Pc-G genes; expression is restricted to the anterior neural plate and is confined later to the forebrain, eyes and branchial arches. XEZ is induced in animal caps overexpressing noggin; up-regulation of XEZ therefore represents a response to inhibition of BMP signalling in ectodermal cells. We show that the midbrain/hindbrain junction marker En-2,and hindbrain marker Krox-20, are target genes of XEZ and that XEZ functions to repress these anteroposterior marker genes. Conversely, XEZ does not repress the forebrain marker Otx-2. XEZ overexpression results in a greatly thickened floor of the forebrain. These results implicate an important role for XEZ in the patterning of the nervous system.

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