Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Genes and Development

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Richard R. Behringer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle C. Barton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yasuhide Furuta, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James F. Martin, Ph.D., M.D.

Committee Member

Ambro van Hoof, Ph.D.


Transcriptional enhancers are genomic DNA sequences that contain clustered transcription factor (TF) binding sites. When combinations of TFs bind to enhancer sequences they act together with basal transcriptional machinery to regulate the timing, location and quantity of gene transcription. Elucidating the genetic mechanisms responsible for differential gene expression, including the role of enhancers, during embryological and postnatal development is essential to an understanding of evolutionary processes and disease etiology. Numerous methods are in use to identify and characterize enhancers. Several high-throughput methods generate large datasets of enhancer sequences with putative roles in embryonic development. However, few enhancers have been deleted from the genome to determine their roles in the development of specific structures, such as the limb. Manipulation of enhancers at their endogenous loci, such as the deletion of such elements, leads to a better understanding of the regulatory interactions, rules and complexities that contribute to faithful and variant gene transcription – the molecular genetic substrate of evolution and disease. To understand the endogenous roles of two distinct enhancers known to be active in the mouse embryo limb bud we deleted them from the mouse genome. I hypothesized that deletion of these enhancers would lead to aberrant limb development.

The enhancers were selected because of their association with p300, a protein associated with active transcription, and because the human enhancer sequences drive distinct lacZ expression patterns in limb buds of embryonic day (E) 11.5 transgenic mice. To confirm that the orthologous mouse enhancers, mouse 280 and 1442 (M280 and M1442, respectively), regulate expression in the developing limb we generated stable transgenic lines, and examined lacZ expression. In M280-lacZ mice, expression was detected in E11.5 fore- and hindlimbs in a region that corresponds to digits II-IV. M1442-lacZ mice exhibited lacZ expression in posterior and anterior margins of the fore- and hindlimbs that overlapped with digits I and V and several wrist bones. We generated mice lacking the M280 and M1442 enhancers by gene targeting. Intercrosses between M280 -/+ and M1442 -/+, respectively, generated M280 and M1442 null mice, which are born at expected Mendelian ratios and manifest no gross limb malformations. Quantitative real-time PCR of mutant E11.5 limb buds indicated that significant changes in transcriptional output of enhancer-proximal genes accompanied the deletion of both M280 and M1442. In neonatal null mice we observed that all limb bones are present in their expected positions, an observation also confirmed by histology of E18.5 distal limbs. Fine-scale measurement of E18.5 digit bone lengths found no differences between mutant and control embryos. Furthermore, when the developmental progression of cartilaginous elements was analyzed in M280 and M1442 embryos from E13.5-E15.5, transient development defects were not detected. These results demonstrate that M280 and M1442 are not required for mouse limb development. Though M280 is not required for embryonic limb development it is required for the development and/or maintenance of body size – adult M280 mice are significantly smaller than control littermates. These studies highlight the importance of experiments that manipulate enhancers in situ to understand their contribution to development.


enhancer, limb, mouse, development, p300, functional genetics



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.