Mahogunin Ring Finger 1 (Mgrn1) encodes a RING-containing protein with ubiquitin ligase activity that has been implicated in pigment-type switching. In addition to having dark fur, mice lacking MGRN1 develop adult-onset spongy degeneration of the central nervous system and have reduced embryonic viability. Observation of complete situs inversus in a small proportion of adult Mgrn1 mutant mice suggested that embryonic lethality resulted from congenital heart defects due to defective establishment and/or maintenance of the left-right (LR) axis. Here we report that Mgrn1 is expressed in a pattern consistent with a role in LR patterning during early development and that many Mgrn1 mutant embryos show abnormal expression of asymmetrically expressed genes involved in LR patterning. A range of complex heart defects was observed in 20-25% of mid-to-late gestation Mgrn1 mutant embryos and another 20% were dead. This finding was consistent with 46-60% mortality of mutants by weaning age. Our results indicate that Mgrn1 acts early in the LR signaling cascade and is likely to provide new insight into this developmental process as Nodal expression was uncoupled from expression of other Nodal-responsive genes in Mgrn1 mutant embryos. Our work identifies a novel role for MGRN1 in embryonic patterning and suggests that the ubiquitination of MGRN1 target genes is essential for the proper establishment and/or maintenance of the LR axis.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.