Leucine-rich repeat proteins expressed in the developing vertebrate nervous system comprise a complex, multifamily group, and little is known of their developmental function in vivo. We have identified a novel member of this group in Xenopus laevis, XlNLRR-6, and through sequence and phylogenetic analysis, have placed it within a defined family of vertebrate neuronal leucine-rich repeat proteins (NLRR). XlNLRR-6 is expressed in the developing nervous system and tissues of the eye beginning at the neural plate stage, and expression continues throughout embryonic and larval development. Using antisense morpholino oligonucleotide (MO) -mediated knockdown of XlNLRR-6, we demonstrate that this protein is critical for development of the lens, retina, and cornea. Reciprocal transplantation of presumptive lens ectoderm between MO-treated and untreated embryos demonstrate that XlNLRR-6 plays autonomous roles in the development of both the lens and retina. These findings represent the first in vivo functional analysis of an NLRR family protein and establish a role for this protein during late differentiation of tissues in the developing eye.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.