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Development. 1993 Mar;117(3):961-75.

Xenopus Distal-less related homeobox genes are expressed in the developing forebrain and are induced by planar signals.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037.


The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to isolated five Xenopus homeobox clones (X-dll1 to 5) that are related to the Drosophila Distal-less (Dll) gene and we propose a subdivision of the vertebrate distal-less gene family according to sequence similarities. cDNA clones were isolated for X-dll2, 3 and 4, and their expression was studied by RNase protection and in situ hybridization. X-dll2, which belongs to a separate subfamily than X-dll3 and 4, is not expressed in the neural ectoderm. X-dll3 and X-dll4, which belong to the same subfamily, have a similar but not identical pattern of expression that is restricted to anterior ectodermal derivatives, namely the ventral forebrain, the cranial neural crest and the cement gland. X-dll3 is also expressed in the olfactory and otic placodes while X-dll4 is expressed in the developing eye. X-dll3 differs from the other Xenopus genes and the previously isolated Dll-related mouse genes, in that localized expression can be detected by in situ hybridization very early in development, in the anterior-transverse ridge of the open neural plate. Based on that early expression pattern, we suggest that X-dll3 marks the rostral-most part of the neural plate, which gives rise to the ventral forebrain. Finally, we have used these Xenopus distal-less genes to show that the anterior neural plate can be induced by signals that spread within the plane of neural ectoderm, indicating that at least the initial steps of forebrain development do not require signals from underlying mesoderm.

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