Gene trapping was used in embryonic stem (ES) cells in an attempt to inactivate genes involved in development. The Emk (ELKL motif kinase) gene has been disrupted and a mutant mouse line derived. Previous work had shown that EMK kinases, called MARK in the rat, exert a major control on microtubule stability by phosphorylating microtubule-associated proteins and that genes homologous to Emk in yeast or Caenorhabditis elegans are essential for cell and embryonic polarity. Although we found the Emk gene to be active in the preimplantation mouse embryo and then to show a widespread expression, Emk-null mice had no embryonic defect and were viable. They show an overall proportionate dwarfism and a peculiar hypofertility: homozygotes are not fertile when intercrossed, but are fertile in other types of crosses. Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF I) and IGF-binding protein 3 (IGFBP3) were reduced in the plasma of homozygotes of both sexes. A direct implication of the EMK kinase in IGF I plasmatic production is unlikely because the Emk gene does not seem to be expressed in hepatocytes. Nevertheless, GH assayed at arbitrary times in plasma did not show differences between genotypes and GH concentrations in pituitary extracts were not found to be altered in homozygotes. Our results, though, do not exclude the possibility that in the mutants the overall quantity of GH secreted daily is reduced. Our observation of a smaller size of the pituitaries of the mutants is in favor of this hypothesis. The prolactin concentration in the pituitaries was much lowered in homozygous females, but it was normal in males. The possible involvement of EMK protein kinase in hormone secretion in the pituitary and/or the hypothalamus, via the microtubule network, is discussed.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.