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Development. 2001 Nov;128(21):4139-51.

Zebrafish Meis functions to stabilize Pbx proteins and regulate hindbrain patterning.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Division of Basic Sciences and Program in Developmental Biology, B2-152, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


Homeodomain-containing Hox proteins regulate segmental identity in Drosophila in concert with two partners known as Extradenticle (Exd) and Homothorax (Hth). These partners are themselves DNA-binding, homeodomain proteins, and probably function by revealing the intrinsic specificity of Hox proteins. Vertebrate orthologs of Exd and Hth, known as Pbx and Meis (named for a myeloid ecotropic leukemia virus integration site), respectively, are encoded by multigene families and are present in multimeric complexes together with vertebrate Hox proteins. Previous results have demonstrated that the zygotically encoded Pbx4/Lazarus (Lzr) protein is required for segmentation of the zebrafish hindbrain and proper expression and function of Hox genes. We demonstrate that Meis functions in the same pathway as Pbx in zebrafish hindbrain development, as expression of a dominant-negative mutant Meis results in phenotypes that are remarkably similar to that of lzr mutants. Surprisingly, expression of Meis protein partially rescues the lzr(-) phenotype. Lzr protein levels are increased in embryos overexpressing Meis and are reduced for lzr mutants that cannot bind to Meis. This implies a mechanism whereby Meis rescues lzr mutants by stabilizing maternally encoded Lzr. Our results define two functions of Meis during zebrafish hindbrain segmentation: that of a DNA-binding partner of Pbx proteins, and that of a post-transcriptional regulator of Pbx protein levels.

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