Genetic analysis of factors regulating mesenchymal cell fates

James Francis Martin, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Formation of cartilage and bone involves sequential processes in which undifferentiated mesenchyme aggregates into primordial condensations which subsequently grow and differentiate, resulting in morphogenesis of the adult skeleton. While much has been learned about the structural molecules which comprise cartilage and bone, little is known about the nuclear factors which regulate chondrogenesis and osteogenesis. MHox is a homeobox-containing gene which is expressed in the mesenchyme of facial, limb, and vertebral skeletal precursors during mouse embryogenesis. MHox expression has been shown to require epithelial-derived signals, suggesting that MHox may regulate the epithelial-mesenchymal interactions required for skeletal organogenesis. To determine the functions of MHox, we generated a loss-of-function mutation in the MHox gene. Mice homozygous for a mutant MHox allele exhibit defects of skeletogenesis, involving the loss or malformation of craniofacial, limb and vertebral skeletal structures. The affected skeletal elements are derived from the cranial neural crest, as well as somitic and lateral mesoderm. Analysis of the mutant phenotype during ontogeny demonstrated a defect in the formation or growth of chondrogenic and osteogenic precursors. These findings provide evidence that MHox regulates the formation of preskeletal condensations from undifferentiated mesenchyme. In addition, generation of mice doubly mutant for the MHox and S8 homeobox genes reveal that these two genes interact to control formation of the limb and craniofacial skeleton. Mice carrying mutant alleles for S8 and MHox exhibit an exaggeration of the craniofacial and limb phenotypes observed in the MHox mutant mouse. Thus, MHox and S8 are components of a combinatorial genetic code controlling generation of the skeleton of the skull and limbs.

Subject Area

Genetics|Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Martin, James Francis, "Genetic analysis of factors regulating mesenchymal cell fates" (1995). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9601206.