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Dev Biol. 2010 Feb 15;338(2):183-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.11.034. Epub 2009 Dec 5.

Fgf8b-containing spliceforms, but not Fgf8a, are essential for Fgf8 function during development of the midbrain and cerebellum.

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Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030, USA.


The single Fgf8 gene in mice produces eight protein isoforms (Fgf8a-h) with different N-termini by alternative splicing. Gain-of-function studies have demonstrated that Fgf8a and Fgf8b have distinct activities in the developing midbrain and hindbrain (MHB) due to their different binding affinities with FGF receptors. Here we have performed loss-of-function analyses to determine the in vivo requirement for these two Fgf8 spliceforms during MHB development. We showed that deletion of Fgf8b-containing spliceforms (b, d, f and h) leads to loss of multiple key regulatory genes, including Fgf8 itself, in the MHB region. Therefore, specific inactivation of Fgf8b-containing spliceforms, similar to the loss of Fgf8, in MHB progenitors results in deletion of the midbrain, isthmus, and cerebellum. We also created a splice-site mutation abolishing Fgf8a-containing spliceforms (a, c, e, and g). Mice lacking Fgf8a-containing spliceforms exhibit growth retardation and postnatal lethality, and the phenotype is variable in different genetic backgrounds, suggesting that the Fgf8a-containing spliceforms may play a role in modulating the activity of Fgf8. Surprisingly, no discernable defect was detected in the midbrain and cerebellum of Fgf8a-deficient mice. To determine if Fgf17, which is expressed in the MHB region and possesses similar activities to Fgf8a based on gain-of-function studies, may compensate for the loss of Fgf8a, we generated Fgf17 and Fgf8a double mutant mice. Mice lacking both Fgf8a-containing spliceforms and Fgf17 display the same defect in the posterior midbrain and anterior cerebellum as Fgf17 mutant mice. Therefore, Fgf8b-containing spliceforms, but not Fgf8a, are essential for the function of Fgf8 during the development of the midbrain and cerebellum.

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