Here we report the isolation, sequence and developmental expression in the central nervous system of several members of the chicken and mouse Nkx gene family. These are among the earliest genes to be regionally expressed in the neural plate; they are expressed just above the axial mesendoderm (prechordal mesendoderm and notochord). Each Nkx gene has a distinct spatial pattern of expression along the anterior-posterior axis of the ventral central nervous system: Nkx-2. 2 is expressed along the entire axis, whereas Nkx-2.1 is restricted to the forebrain, and Nkx-6.1 and Nkx-6.2 are largely excluded from the forebrain. They are also expressed in distinct patterns along the dorsal-ventral axis. These genes are expressed in both the ventricular and mantle zones; in the mantle zone Nkx-6.1 is co-expressed with Islet-1 in a subset of motor neurons. Like other Nkx genes, expression of Nkx-6.1 is induced by the axial mesendoderm and by sonic hedgehog protein. BMP-7 represses Nkx-6.1 expression. While the notochord can induce Nkx-6.1 expression in the anterior neural plate, sonic hedgehog protein does not, suggesting that the notochord produces additional molecules that can regulate ventral patterning.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.