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Dev Biol. 1997 Feb 15;182(2):299-313.

The expression of the mouse Zic1, Zic2, and Zic3 gene suggests an essential role for Zic genes in body pattern formation.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Tsukuba Life Science Center, Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Ibaraki, Japan.


We examined the expression of Zic1, Zic2, and Zic3 genes in the mouse embryo by means of in situ hybridization. Zic genes were found as a group of genes coding for zinc finger proteins that are expressed in a restricted manner in the adult mouse cerebellum. We showed that the genes are the vertebrate homologues of Drosophila odd-paired, which may play an essential role in parasegmental subdivision and in visceral mesoderm development. The expression of the three Zic genes was first detected at gastrulation in a spatially restricted manner. At neurulation, the expression became restricted to the dorsal neural ectoderm and dorsal paraxial mesoderm. During organogenesis, the three genes were expressed in specific regions of several developing organs, including dorsal areas of the brain, spinal cord, paraxial mesenchyme, and epidermis, the marginal zone of the neural retina and distal regions of the developing limb. For all stages, significant differences in the spatial expression of Zic1, Zic2, and Zic3 were observed. Furthermore, the expression of Zic genes in Pax3, Wnt-1, and Wnt-3a mutant embryos suggested that Zic genes are not primarily regulated by the three genes which were expressed in dorsal areas similar to Zic genes. However, in open brain, a mutant with severe neural tube defects, and in the Wnt-3a mutant mice, the expression of Zic genes was changed. The changed expression pattern in Wnt-3a mutant mice suggests that Zic genes in the neural tube are regulated by the factors from notochord. Our findings suggest that Zic genes are involved in many developmental processes. Furthermore, analysis of gene expression patterns in different mouse mutants indicated that Zic genes may act upstream of many known developmental regulatory genes.

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