The morphogenesis of the brain and the differentiation of the neural structures are highly complex processes. A series of temporally and spatially regulated morphogenetic events gives rise to smaller areas that are phylogenetically, functionally and often morphogenetically different. Candidate genes for positional information and differentiation during morphogenesis have been isolated. Both in vivo inactivation in mice and impairment in human diseases revealed, that they are required in regional specification and/or correct cell-type induction. We have previously cloned and characterized the murine Otx1 gene, which is related to orthodenticle (otd), a homeobox-containing gene required for Drosophila head development. Expression data during murine embryogenesis and postnatal brain development support the idea that Otx1 could be required for correct brain and sense organs development. To decipher its role in vivo we produced null mice by replacing Otx1 with the lacZ gene. Otx1(-/-) mice showed spontaneous epileptic behaviour and multiple abnormalities affecting mainly the telencephalic temporal and perirhinal areas, the hippocampus, the mesencephalon and the cerebellum, as well as the acoustic and visual sense organs. Our findings indicate that the Otx1 gene product is required for proper brain functions.
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