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Nature. 1989 Feb 2;337(6206):464-7.

Transgenic mice overexpressing the mouse homoeobox-containing gene Hox-1.4 exhibit abnormal gut development.

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Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032.


The mouse homoeobox-containing genes exhibit temporally and spatially specific patterns of expression in embryonic and adult tissues and are thought to be important in regulation of development and cellular differentiation, perhaps by mechanisms analogous to homoeotic genes in Drosophila melanogaster. There has been no direct demonstration that expression of these mammalian genes can affect developmental processes, however. Hox-1.4, like other mouse homoeobox-containing genes, has been shown to be expressed in specific regions of the mid-gestation embryo, but is unique in that its highest level of expression in the adult animal is restricted to developing male germ cells. We have introduced a construct carrying the mouse Hox-1.4 gene into the germ line of mice to begin to identify the cis-acting elements required for proper expression and to assess the consequences of increasing Hox-1.4 gene expression. The construct was designed to produce normal Hox-1.4 protein from transcripts that are distinguishable from the products of the endogenous gene. The integrated transgene seemed to exhibit the appropriate tissue specificity of expression, but transcript levels were elevated in certain tissues, particularly the embryonic gut. This overexpression correlated with changes in the normal developmental program of the gut, resulting in an inherited abnormal phenotype known as megacolon.

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