Differential expression of multiple fork head related genes during gastrulation and axial pattern formation in the mouse embryo.
Four genes encoding fork-head-domain-containing proteins (FD genes) have been isolated from a mouse 8.5 days post coitum (p.c.) embryo cDNA library. Two are mouse homologues of rat HNF-3 beta and HNF-3 alpha. The other two are novel and have been named MF-1 and MF-2 (for mesoderm/mesenchyme fork head). Wholemount in situ hybridization of embryos between 6.5 and 9.5 days p. c. shows that each gene has a unique expression pattern. HNF-3 beta is expressed in the node, notochord, floor plate and gut, while HNF-3 alpha is mainly in the definitive endoderm and gut, but also in the floor plate of the midbrain. These results suggest that HNF-3 beta and HNF-3 alpha, in addition to their known functions as transcriptional activators in adult liver, play a role in body axis formation, neural tube patterning and definitive endoderm formation during gastrulation. MF-1 RNA is present in non-notochordal mesoderm, and in neural-crest-derived head mesenchyme, while MF-2 transcripts are found in the sclerotomes of the somites and in head mesenchyme, including that from neural crest. Studies on gastrulation stage embryos suggest that the early temporal and spatial patterns of HNF-3 beta, MF-1 and HNF-3 alpha correlate with populations of cells undergoing commitment to different developmental fates. A model is proposed linking FD gene expression with gastrulation events in the mouse.
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