Taneja, R., Thisse, B., Rijli, F.M., Thisse, C., Bouillet, P., Dollé, P., and Chambon, P. (1996) The expression pattern of the mouse receptor tyrosine kinase gene MDK1 is conserved through evolution and requires Hoxa-2 for rhombomere-specific expression in mouse embryos. Developmental Biology. 177(2):397-412.
Segmentation of the hindbrain has been conserved throughout the vertebrate species and results in the transient formation of rhombomeres, which are lineage-restricted compartments. Studies on the molecular mechanisms underlying the segmentation process have revealed that rhombomeric boundaries coincide with the expression limits of several evolutionary conserved genes such as the zinc-finger transcription factor Krox-20 and homeobox genes which are expressed in a specific spatial and temporal order and have been shown to be important regulators of segmental identity. In addition to Krox-20 and Hox genes, several members of the Eph subfamily of receptor protein tyrosine kinase (RTK) genes are also expressed in a segment- restricted manner in the hindbrain, suggesting that these receptors may act in concert with Hox genes to establish regional identity. In the cascade of regulatory interactions leading to segmental identity, Krox-20 appears to act "upstream" of Hox genes, but the identity of the "downstream" effectors has not yet been identified. We report here the isolation of the zebrafish orthologue of the mouse RTK gene MDK1 which belongs to the Eph receptor subfamily and show that the major expression domains of the mouse and the zebrafish genes have been conserved through evolution. Since the coincident spatial and temporal expression of Hoxa-2 and MDK1 in the mouse hindbrain suggested a possible regulatory link between them, we analyzed the expression of the MDK1 in Hoxa-2 null mutant embryos. A selective lack of MDK1 expression in rhombomere 3 of Hoxa-2 mutant hindbrains together with an overall altered expression pattern in the other rhombomeres was observed, thus demonstrating that MDK1 lies downstream of Hoxa- 2 in the morphogenetic signaling cascade.