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Am J Pathol. 2004 Oct;165(4):1343-50.

Pbx3 deficiency results in central hypoventilation.

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Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Pbx proteins comprise a family of TALE (three amino acid loop extension) class homeodomain transcription factors that are implicated in developmental gene expression through their abilities to form hetero-oligomeric DNA-binding complexes and function as transcriptional regulators in numerous cell types. We demonstrate here that one member of this family, Pbx3, is expressed at high levels predominantly in the developing central nervous system, including a region of the medulla oblongata that is implicated in the control of respiration. Pbx3-deficient mice develop to term but die within a few hours of birth from central respiratory failure due to abnormal activity of inspiratory neurons in the medulla. This partially phenocopies the defect in mice deficient for Rnx, a metaHox homeodomain transcription factor, that we demonstrate here is capable of forming a DNA-binding complex with Pbx3. Rnx expression is unperturbed in Pbx3-deficient mice, but its ability to enhance transcription in vitro as a complex with TALE proteins is compromised in the absence of Pbx3. Thus, Pbx3 is essential for respiration and, like its DNA-binding partner Rnx, is critical for proper development of medullary respiratory control mechanisms. Pbx3-deficient mice provide a model for congenital central hypoventilation syndrome and suggest that Pbx3 mutations may promote the pathogenesis of this disorder.

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