Loss of N-myc function results in embryonic lethality and failure of the epithelial component of the embryo to develop

Brian R. Stanton, Archibald S. Perkins, Lino Tessarollo, David A. Sassoon, Luis F. Parada

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331 Scopus citations


myc genes are thought to function in the processes of cellular proliferation and differentiation. To gain insight into the role of the N-myc gene during embryogenesis, we examined its expression in embryos during postimplantation development using RNA in situ hybridization. Tissue- and cell-specific patterns of expression unique to N-myc as compared with the related c-myc gene were observed. N-myc transcripts become progressively restricted to specific cell types, primarily to epithelial tissues including those of the developing nervous system and those in developing organs characterized by epithelio-mesenchymal interaction. In contrast, c-myc transcripts were confined to the mesenchymal compartments. These data suggest that c-myc and N-myc proteins may interact with different substrates in performing their function during embryogenesis and suggest further that there are linked regulatory mechanisms for normal expression in the embryo. We have mutated the N-myc locus via homologous recombination in embryonic stem (ES) cells and introduced the mutated allele into the mouse germ line. Live-born heterozygotes are under-represented but appear normal. Homozygous mutant embryos die prenatally at ∼11.5 days of gestation. Histologic examination of homozygous mutant embryos indicates that several developing organs are affected. These include the central and peripheral nervous systems, mesonephros, lung, and gut. Thus, N-myc function is required during embryogenesis, and the pathology observed is consistent with the normal pattern of N-myc expression. Examination of c-myc expression in mutant embryos indicates the existence of coordinate regulation of myc genes during mouse embryogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2235-2247
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Mouse embryogenesis
  • N-myc gene
  • Postimplantation development


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