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Dev Biol. 2002 Jul 1;247(1):197-209.

Homeobox gene hoxa3 is essential for the formation of the carotid body in the mouse embryos.

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Department of Anatomy, Kitasato University School of Medicine, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 228-8555, Japan.


Homeobox gene Hoxa3 is strongly expressed in the third pharyngeal arch and pouch. We found that Hoxa3 homozygous null mutant mice had the lack of the carotid body. In all late-term mutant embryos examined (n = 10), no carotid body was present. The carotid body rudiment is formed in the wall of the third branchial artery, which develops into the common carotid artery and the first part of the internal carotid artery. The symmetrical patterns of the third, fourth, and sixth arch arteries were observed in wild-type littermates at embryonic day (E) 10.5-12.5. In Hoxa3 homozygous mutant embryos, however, the third arch artery began to degenerate at E10.5 and almost disappeared at E11.5. Furthermore, the bifurcation of the common carotid artery at the normal position, i.e., at the upper end of the larynx, was never detected in the mutant embryos at E16.5-E18.5. The common carotid artery of the homozygous mutants was separated into the internal and external carotid arteries immediately after its origin. Thus, the present study evidenced that the absence of the carotid body in Hoxa3 homozygous mutants is due to the defect of development of the third arch artery, resulting in malformation of the carotid artery system. During fetal development, the carotid body of mice is in close association with the superior cervical ganglion of the sympathetic trunk. The superior cervical ganglion rather showed hypertrophic features in Hoxa3 homozygous mutants lacking the carotid body.

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