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Dev Biol. 1994 Feb;161(2):357-69.

The expression pattern of the chick homeobox gene gMHox suggests a role in patterning of the limbs and face and in compartmentalization of somites.

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Department of Biochemistry, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030.


MHox is a homeodomain protein that binds an essential element in the core of the muscle creatine kinase enhancer. In the mouse embryo, MHox expression is restricted to mesenchymal cells; in adult mice the gene is highly expressed in skeletal and cardiac muscle. To further define the functions of MHox during embryogenesis, we have cloned its chicken homolog, termed gMHox, and analyzed its properties and detailed expression patterns. Our studies show that the amino acid sequence and DNA-binding properties of the avian and murine gene products are very similar. Furthermore, the sites of expression are alike with high levels of expression in the splanchnic mesoderm, in the somatic mesoderm, in the limb bud mesoderm, in the dermatome and in the dermis, and in the ectomesenchyme of the face. gMHox became downregulated as chondrogenesis proceeded, whereas its expression was maintained in perichondrium and undifferentiated mesenchymal cells beneath the surface ectoderm. Such a pattern of expression suggests that gMHox may participate in maintenance of mesenchymal cell lineages derived from both mesoderm and the neural crest and in patterning of the limbs and the face. Removal of the surface ectoderm overlying the somites has no visible effect on the architecture of somites but results in the failure of gMHox to be expressed in the underlying dermatome, suggesting that regulation of gMHox expression in these cells is dependent on cues emanating from the surface ectoderm.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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