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Dynamic expression of Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4), a target of transcription factor AP-2alpha during murine mid-embryogenesis.

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Institute for Pathology, Department of Developmental Pathology, University of Bonn Medical School, Bonn, Germany.


Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4) belongs to the family of transcription factors that are thought to be involved in the regulation of epithelial and germ cell differentiation, based on their expression in postproliferative cells of the skin, gut, and testes. Gene ablation experiments suggest that Klf4 plays a role in keratinocyte differentiation, since mice lacking Klf4 fail to establish proper barrier function and, as a consequence, die postnatally due to dehydration. Recent studies have shown that Klf4 is also expressed in postnatal male mice, in postmeiotic sperm cells undergoing terminal differentiation into sperm cells. However, prior to the current study, the expression pattern of Klf4 during early and mid-embryogenesis had not been examined. Here we demonstrate that Klf4 transcripts can be detected from embryonic day 4.5 (E4.5) on in the developing conceptus, and that Klf4 expression before E10 is restricted to extraembryonic tissues. The embryo proper displays a highly dynamic and changing Klf4 signal from E10 of murine development on. In addition to being expressed in a stripe of mesenchymal cells extending from the forelimb bud rostrally over the branchial arches to the developing eye, Klf4 is also expressed in the mesenchyme surrounding the nasal pit at day E11.5. In addition, Klf4 has been detected in the apical ectodermal ridge and adjacent mesenchymal cells in the limb buds, and in mesenchymal cells of the developing body wall in trunk areas. These findings suggest that Klf4 plays an important role in regulating cellular proliferation, which underlies the morphogenetic changes that shape the developing embryo.

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