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Cell Growth Differ. 1994 Mar;5(3):305-11.

Developmental expression of the RET protooncogene.

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Istituto Internazionale di Genetica e Biofisica, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Naples, Italy.


The RET protooncogene encodes a transmembrane protein of the receptor-type tyrosine kinase family whose ligand has not yet been identified. Its activation in vivo is restricted to human carcinomas of the thyroid. In order to learn more about the possible role played by RET during normal development, we have examined its expression by performing in situ hybridization experiments on mouse embryos. Here, we show that the RET protooncogene is expressed during mouse embryogenesis in an unusual temporal and spatial manner. In fact, its expression was first detected around day 10 of gestation in the basal plate of the neural tube and in the developing encephalic ganglia, and later its pattern of expression was definitely established in neural structures, mostly in neural crest derivatives (spinal and encephalic ganglia). As far as the central nervous system is concerned, RET expression was confined to the ventral part of the midbrain from 12.5 days postcoitum (dpc) until birth. RET was also found to be expressed within structures of sensory organs such as the ganglial layer of the retina and the olfactory epithelium. A peculiar pattern of RET expression was clearly observed in the wall of the gut and in the nephrogenic zone of the developing kidney cortex, specifically in the metanephrogenic vesicles. Finally, RET was found to be expressed in the liver mostly between 12.5 dpc and 14.5 dpc. In conclusion, its expression in the early stages of embryogenesis suggests that RET may play a role in the differentiation of specific neural structures and the excretory system.

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