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Development. 1997 Aug;124(16):3065-76.

Mouse Dll3: a novel divergent Delta gene which may complement the function of other Delta homologues during early pattern formation in the mouse embryo.

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Department of Mammalian Development, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK.


Mouse delta-like 3 (Dll3), a novel vertebrate homologue of the Drosophila gene Delta was isolated by a subtracted library screen. In Drosphila, the Delta/Notch signalling pathway functions in many situations in both embryonic and adult life where cell fate specification occurs. In addition, a patterning role has been described in the establishment of the dorsoventral compartment boundary in the wing imaginal disc. Dll3 is the most divergent Delta homologue identified to date. We confirm that Dll3 can inhibit primary neurogenesis when ectopically expressed in Xenopus, suggesting that it can activate the Notch receptor and therefore is a functional Delta homologue. An extensive expression study during gastrulation and early organogenesis in the mouse reveals a diverse and dynamic pattern of expression. The three major sites of expression implicate Dll3 in somitogenesis and neurogenesis and in the production of tissue from the primitive streak and tailbud. A careful comparison of Dll3 and Dll1 expression by double RNA in situ hybridisation demonstrates that these genes have distinct patterns of expression, but implies that together they operate in many of the same processes. We postulate that during somitogenesis Dll3 and Dll1 coordinate in establishing the intersomitic boundaries. We confirm that, during neurogenesis in the spinal cord, Dll1 and Dll3 are expressed by postmitotic cells and suggest that expression is sequential such that cells express Dll1 first followed by Dll3. We hypothesise that Dll1 is involved in the release of cells from the precursor population and that Dll3 is required later to divert neurons along a specific differentiation pathway.

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