Polycomb group proteins are essential for spinal cord development

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2010 Jun 1;15:1018-22. doi: 10.2741/3659.


Birth defects are the leading cause of infantile mortality, followed by neural tube defects (NTD) and congenital heart defects. Spina bifida and anencephaly are among the most common forms of NTD. NTD etiologies are complex, and are associated with both genetic and environmental factors. Polycomb group proteins are essential for vertebrate development; therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the role of PcGs in spinal cord morphogenesis in normal and all-trans-retinoic acid (RA)-treated fetal rat models of spina bifida. Pregnant rats were gavage-fed RA, resulting in fetal NTD, and embryos were obtained on day 15.5, 17.5, and 19.5. Western blot and immunohistochemistry were used to reveal PcGs expression in the normal and RA-treated E15.5-19.5 rat sacral cords. Western blot and immunohistochemistry revealed decreased EED, RNF2, SUZ12, and H3K27me3 expression in the normal, E15.5-19.5, rat sacral cords. In addition, the spinal cord of RA-treated rats during embryonic development exhibited altered PcGs protein expression. Administration of excess RA results in NTD. Our results suggest that the Polycomb proteins may be involved in spinal cord development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Embryo, Mammalian / embryology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neural Tube Defects / chemically induced
  • Neural Tube Defects / embryology
  • Neural Tube Defects / metabolism*
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / embryology
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tretinoin


  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tretinoin