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Differentiation. 1996 Oct;61(1):13-23.

Chicken Pax-1 gene: structure and expression during embryonic somite development.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Recent mouse genetic studies have implicated Pax-1, a paired-box-containing gene, in sclerotomal differentiation and vertebral body formation. To investigate Pax-1 function in somitic sclerotomal differentiation in the chick embryo, we have cloned the chicken Pax-1 gene, and its full length cDNA, and characterized its temporal and spatial expression pattern during somite development. Sequence analysis shows that chicken Pax-1 is highly homologous to murine and human Pax-1 genes with respect to the putative DNA-binding paired-box domain and the octapeptide domain. Northern analysis using probes derived from the paired-box domain and a unique non-paired box sequence of chicken Pax-1 detected 2-kb mRNA transcript. The expression profiles of Pax-1 were examined by in situ hybridization and Northern analysis. The first detectable expression of Pax-1 is seen in the most caudal epithelial somite. As the somite matures, Pax-1 expression takes on a medial distribution, thus corresponding to but preceding the emergence of the sclerotome. In the more mature, rostral somites (stage V and older), Pax-1 expression is found to be progressively localized first to the ventral-medial regions, and then to the caudal-ventral-medial quadrant of the mature somite. This pattern strongly supports the notion that Pax-1 expression is involved in somitogenesis and sclerotomal differentiation, and that it is subsequently a characteristic of the caudal half of the sclerotome, the presumptive precursor of vertebral cartilage. Northern analysis substantiated this expression profile and further revealed that the level of somitic Pax-1 expression increases as a function of embryonic development. Finally, we subjected chicken embryos to controlled heat shock treatment to perturb somite formation and segmentation. The pattern of Pax-1 expression in the anomalous somitic structures generated by controlled heat shock further supports a functional role for Pax-1 in somite development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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