Int. J. Dev. Biol. 45: 337 - 345 (2001)
© UPV/EHU Press

The role of Otx2 in organizing the anterior patterning in mouse.

A Simeone and D Acampora

International Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, CNR, Naples, Italy.

ABSTRACT Understanding the molecular mechanism controlling induction and maintenance of signals required for specifying anterior territory (forebrain and midbrain) of the central nervous system is a major task of molecular embryology. The current view indicates that in mouse, early specification of the anterior patterning is established at the beginning of gastrulation by the anterior visceral endoderm, while maintenance and refinement of the early specification is under the control of epiblast-derived tissues corresponding to the axial mesendoderm and rostral neuroectoderm. In vertebrates a remarkable amount of data has been collected on the role of genes contributing to brain morphogenesis. Among these genes,the orthodenticle group is defined bythe Drosophila orthodenticle and the vertebrate Otx1 and Otx2 genes, which contain a bicoid-like homeodomain. Mouse models and chimera experiments have provided strong evidence that Otx2 plays an important role in the specification and maintenance of the rostral neuroectoderm destined to become forebrain and midbrain. In evolutionary terms, some of these findings lead us to hypothesize a fascinating and crucial contribution of the Otx genes to the genetic program underlying the establishment of the mammalian brain.