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Newly discovered molecular switch helps decide cell type in early embryo development
Date:8/11/2008

decisions, and look for the causes of birth defects and disease."

Although Hox genes have long been known to specify distinct cell types along the developing body axes of vertebrates and non-vertebrates, it hasn't been clear how they regulate downstream gene transcription to form specific cells or tissues. In what the researchers called "an unexpected Hox transcriptional mechanism," they detected the permissive regulation of a secreted protein called EGF, or epidermal growth factor. EGF is a cell messenger protein that affects cell differentiation, growth and epidermal development. The research team noticed that Hox's permissive regulation of EGF led to cell specification when it interacted with the influence of Sens in the peripheral nervous system.

Dr. Gebelein's laboratory studies nervous system development and genes that specify neuron subtypes, their formation and how they migrate to their appropriate locations in the developing body. Understanding the influence of Hox transcription factors in cell differentiation along the anterior and posterior axis of the Drosophilia melangaster fruit fly is an important focal point of this research.

In collaboration with H. Leighton Grimes, Ph.D., of Cincinnati Children's division of Immunobiology, Dr. Gebelein is also studying how Hox competes with Sens and its control of a growth factor called Gfi-1. In the current study, the researchers note that ongoing mouse studies at Cincinnati Children's show Gfi-1 and Hox are linked to neural and blood development. The researchers are looking into the implications this has for leukemia, said Dr. Gebelein, also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.


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Contact: Nick Miller
nicholas.miller@cchmc.org
513-803-6035
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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