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Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2007 Jan;85(1):55-65.

Regulation and function of homeodomain proteins in the embryonic and adult vascular systems.

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Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre and Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R2H 2A6, Canada.


During embryonic development, the cardiovascular system first forms and then gives rise to the lymphatic vascular system. Homeobox genes are essential for both the development of the blood and lymphatic vascular systems, as well as for their maintenance in the adult. These genes all encode proteins that are transcription factors that contain a well conserved DNA binding motif, the homeodomain. It is through the homeodomain that these transcription factors bind to the promoters of target genes and regulate their expression. Although many homeodomain proteins have been found to be expressed within the vascular systems, little is known about their downstream target genes. This review highlights recent advances made in the identification of novel genes downstream of the homeodomain proteins that are necessary for regulating vascular cellular processes such as proliferation, migration, and endothelial tube formation. Factors known to regulate the functions of vascular cells via modulating the expression of homeobox genes will be discussed. We will also review current methods used to identify and characterize downstream target genes of homeodomain proteins.

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