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Development. 2007 Nov;134(21):3805-14.

Spalt4 mediates invagination and otic placode gene expression in cranial ectoderm.

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Division of Biology, 139-74, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


Vertebrate placodes are regions of thickened head ectoderm that contribute to paired sensory organs and cranial ganglia. We demonstrate that the transcription factor Spalt4 (also known as Sall4) is broadly expressed in chick preplacodal epiblast and later resolves to otic, lens and olfactory placodes. Ectopic expression of Spalt4 by electroporation is sufficient to induce invagination of non-placodal head ectoderm and prevent neurogenic placodes from contributing to cranial ganglia. Conversely, loss of Spalt4 function in the otic placode results in abnormal otic vesicle development. Intriguingly, Spalt4 appears to initiate a placode program appropriate for the axial level but is not involved in later development of specific placode fates. Fgfs can regulate Spalt4, since implantation of Fgf2 beads into the area opaca induces its expression. The results suggest that Spalt4 is involved in early stages of placode development, initiating cranial ectodermal invagination and region-specific gene regulatory networks.

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