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Cell Tissue Res. 2005 Apr;320(1):77-89. Epub 2005 Feb 16.

Hoxa3 regulates the proliferation and differentiation of the third pharyngeal arch mesenchyme in mice.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8502, Japan.


Genetic disruption of Hoxa3 results in bilateral defects of the common carotid artery, which is derived from the third branchial arch artery. The tunica media of the great arteries derived from the arch arteries is formed by the ectomesenchymal neural crest cells. To examine the etiology of the regression of the third arch artery, we generated Hoxa3 homozygous null mutant embryos that expressed a lacZ marker transgene driven by a connexin43 (Cx43): promoter in the neural crest cells. The expression of beta-galactosidase in these mouse embryos was examined by both whole-mount X-gal staining and immunohistochemistry with the monoclonal beta-galactosidase antibody on sections. The migration of neural crest cells from the neural tube to the third branchial arch was not affected in the Hoxa3 homozygotes. The initial formation of the third arch artery was also not disturbed. The artery, however, regressed at embryonic day 11.5 (E11.5), when differentiation of the third pharyngeal arch began. The internal and external carotid arteries arose from the dorsal aorta in E12.5 null mutants, which showed an abnormal persistence of the ductus caroticus. The third pharyngeal arch of wild-type mice fuses with the fourth and second arches at E12.0. In the Hoxa3 null mutants, however, the fusion was delayed, and the hypoplastic third pharyngeal arch was still discerned at E12.5. Moreover, the number of proliferating cells in the third arch of the null mutants was small compared with that in the wild-type. Thus, Hoxa3 is required for the growth and differentiation of the third pharyngeal arch. The defective development of the third pharyngeal arch may induce the anomalies of the carotid artery system.

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