The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 44: 619 - 626 (2000)

Vol 44, Issue 6

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in Italy

Multiple functions of Dlx genes

Published: 1 September 2000

G R Merlo, B Zerega, L Paleari, S Trombino, S Mantero and G Levi

Laboratory of Molecular Morphogenesis, National Cancer Institute-IST, Genova, Italy.


Dlx genes comprise a highly conserved family of homeobox genes homologous to the distal-less (Dll) gene of Drosophila. They are thought to act as transcription factors. All Dlx genes are expressed in spatially and temporally restricted patterns in craniofacial primordia, basal telencephalon and diencephalon, and in distal regions of extending appendages, including the limb and the genital bud. Most of them are expressed during morphogenesis of sensory organs and during migration of neural crest cells and interneurons. In addition, Dlx5 and Dlx6 are expressed in differentiating osteoblasts. Gene targeting of Dlx1, Dlx2, Dlx3 and Dlx5 in the mouse germ-line has revealed functions in craniofacial patterning, sensory organ morphogenesis, osteogenesis and placental formation. However, no effect on limb development has yet been revealed from gene inactivation studies. A role for these genes in limb development is however suggested by the linkage of the Split Foot/Hand Malformation human syndrome to a region containing DLX5 and DLX6. As for most transcription factors, these genes seem to have multiple functions at different stages of development or in different tissues and cell types.

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