Functional studies of homeobox gene Cart1 during mouse development

Qi Zhao, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Cart1 is a paired-class homeobox-containing gene that is expressed in head mesenchyme, branchial arches, limb buds, and various cartilages during embryogenesis. To understand the role of Cart1 during mammalian development, I generated Cart1-mutant mice by gene targeting in mouse embryonic stem cells. Cart1-homozygous mutants were born alive but all died soon after birth. Most had acrania (absence of the cranial vault) and meroanencephaly (absence of part of the brain). In situ hybridization studies showed that Cart1 is expressed specifically in forebrain mesenchyme but not in midbrain or hindbrain mesenchyme nor in the neural tube. Developmental studies revealed a transient deficiency of forebrain mesenchyme cells due to apoptosis associated with a delay in neural tube closure in that region. Subsequently, the forebrain region became filled with mesenchyme and closed, however, the midbrain neural tube region never initiated closure and remained open. These results suggest that Cart1 is required for the survival of forebrain mesenchyme and that its absence disrupts cranial neural tube morphogenesis by blocking the initiation of closure in the midbrain region, and this ultimately leads to the generation of lethal craniofacial defects. Prenatal treatment of Cart1 homozygous mutants with folic acid suppressed the development of the acrania/meroanencephaly phenotype. Thus, Cart1 mutant mice provide a novel animal model for understanding the cellular, molecular, and genetic etiology of neural tube defects and for the development of prenatal therapeutic protocols using folic acid.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Neurology

Recommended Citation

Zhao, Qi, "Functional studies of homeobox gene Cart1 during mouse development" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9707550.