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Dev Biol. 2001 Sep 1;237(1):130-44.

Hoxb2 and hoxb4 act together to specify ventral body wall formation.

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Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia 30912, USA.


Three different alleles of the Hoxb4 locus were generated by gene targeting in mice. Two alleles contain insertions of a selectable marker in the first exon in either orientation, and, in the third, the selectable marker was removed, resulting in premature termination of the protein. Presence and orientation of the selectable marker correlated with the severity of the phenotype, indicating that the selectable marker induces cis effects on neighboring genes that influence the phenotype. Homozygous mutants of all alleles had cervical skeletal defects similar to those previously reported for Hoxb4 mutant mice. In the most severe allele, Hoxb4(PolII), homozygous mutants died either in utero at approximately E15.5 or immediately after birth, with a severe defect in ventral body wall formation. Analysis of embryos showed thinning of the primary ventral body wall in mutants relative to control animals at E11.5, before secondary body wall formation. Prior to this defect, both Alx3 and Alx4 were specifically down regulated in the most ventral part of the primary body wall in Hoxb4(PolII) mutants. Hoxb4(loxp) mutants in which the neo gene has been removed did not have body wall or sternum defects. In contrast, both the Hoxb4(PolII) and the previously described Hoxb2(PolII) alleles that have body wall defects have been shown to disrupt the expression of both Hoxb2 and Hoxb4 in cell types that contribute to body wall formation. Our results are consistent with a model in which defects in ventral body wall formation require the simultaneous loss of at least Hoxb2 and Hoxb4, and may involve Alx3 and Alx4.

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