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Development. 2002 Oct;129(19):4591-603.

An Fgf8 mouse mutant phenocopies human 22q11 deletion syndrome.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


Deletion of chromosome 22q11, the most common microdeletion detected in humans, is associated with a life-threatening array of birth defects. Although 90% of affected individuals share the same three megabase deletion, their phenotype is highly variable and includes craniofacial and cardiovascular anomalies, hypoplasia or aplasia of the thymus with associated deficiency of T cells, hypocalcemia with hypoplasia or aplasia of the parathyroids, and a variety of central nervous system abnormalities. Because ablation of neural crest in chicks produces many features of the deletion 22q11 syndrome, it has been proposed that haploinsufficiency in this region impacts neural crest function during cardiac and pharyngeal arch development. Few factors required for migration, survival, proliferation and subsequent differentiation of pharyngeal arch neural crest and mesoderm-derived mesenchyme into their respective cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and glandular derivatives have been identified. However, the importance of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions and pharyngeal endoderm function is becoming increasingly clear. Fibroblast growth factor 8 is a signaling molecule expressed in the ectoderm and endoderm of the developing pharyngeal arches and known to play an important role in survival and patterning of first arch tissues. We demonstrate a dosage-sensitive requirement for FGF8 during development of pharyngeal arch, pharyngeal pouch and neural crest-derived tissues. We show that FGF8 deficient embryos have lethal malformations of the cardiac outflow tract, great vessels and heart due, at least in part, to failure to form the fourth pharyngeal arch arteries, altered expression of Fgf10 in the pharyngeal mesenchyme, and abnormal apoptosis in pharyngeal and cardiac neural crest. The Fgf8 mutants described herein display the complete array of cardiovascular, glandular and craniofacial phenotypes seen in human deletion 22q11 syndromes. This represents the first single gene disruption outside the typically deleted region of human chromosome 22 to fully recapitulate the deletion 22q11 phenotype. FGF8 may operate directly in molecular pathways affected by deletions in 22q11 or function in parallel pathways required for normal development of pharyngeal arch and neural crest-derived tissues. In either case, Fgf8 may function as a modifier of the 22q11 deletion and contribute to the phenotypic variability of this syndrome.

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