Twist encodes a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor that is required for normal craniofacial morphogenesis in the mouse. Loss of Twist activity in the cranial mesenchyme leads to aberrant migratory behaviour of the neural crest cells, whereas Twist-deficient neural crest cells are located in an inappropriate location in the first branchial arch and display defective osteogenic and odontogenic differentiation (Soo et al.  Dev. Biol. 247:251-270). Results of the present study further show that loss of Twist impacts on the patterning of the cranial ganglia and nerves but not that of the peripheral ganglia and nerves in the trunk region of the body axis. Analyses of the expression of molecular markers of early differentiation of the paraxial mesoderm and the histogenetic potency of somites of Twist(-/-) embryos reveal that Twist-deficient somites can differentiate into muscles, cartilage, and bones, albeit less prolifically. Twist function, therefore, is not essential for mesoderm differentiation. The poor growth of the Twist-deficient somites after transplantation to the ectopic site may be attributed to reduced proliferative capacity and extensive apoptosis of the paraxial mesoderm, suggesting that Twist is required for maintaining cell proliferation and viability in the mesodermal progenitors.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.