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Development. 2001 Dec;128(24):4979-91.

Otx2 and Gbx2 are required for refinement and not induction of mid-hindbrain gene expression.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Developmental Genetics Program, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, 540 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Otx2 and Gbx2 are among the earliest genes expressed in the neuroectoderm, dividing it into anterior and posterior domains with a common border that marks the mid-hindbrain junction. Otx2 is required for development of the forebrain and midbrain, and Gbx2 for the anterior hindbrain. Furthermore, opposing interactions between Otx2 and Gbx2 play an important role in positioning the mid-hindbrain boundary, where an organizer forms that regulates midbrain and cerebellum development. We show that the expression domains of Otx2 and Gbx2 are initially established independently of each other at the early headfold stage, and then their expression rapidly becomes interdependent by the late headfold stage. As we demonstrate that the repression of Otx2 by retinoic acid is dependent on an induction of Gbx2 in the anterior brain, molecules other than retinoic acid must regulate the initial expression of Otx2 in vivo. In contrast to previous suggestions that an interaction between Otx2- and Gbx2-expressing cells may be essential for induction of mid-hindbrain organizer factors such as Fgf8, we find that Fgf8 and other essential mid-hindbrain genes are induced in a correct temporal manner in mouse embryos deficient for both Otx2 and Gbx2. However, expression of these genes is abnormally co-localized in a broad anterior region of the neuroectoderm. Finally, we find that by removing Otx2 function, development of rhombomere 3 is rescued in Gbx2(-/-) embryos, showing that Gbx2 plays a permissive, not instructive, role in rhombomere 3 development. Our results provide new insights into induction and maintenance of the mid-hindbrain genetic cascade by showing that a mid-hindbrain competence region is initially established independent of the division of the neuroectoderm into an anterior Otx2-positive domain and posterior Gbx2-positive domain. Furthermore, Otx2 and Gbx2 are required to suppress hindbrain and midbrain development, respectively, and thus allow establishment of the normal spatial domains of Fgf8 and other genes.

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