Msx genes, homeobox-containing genes, have been isolated as homologues of the Drosophila msh gene and are thought to play important roles in the development of chick or mouse limb buds. We isolated two Msx genes, Msx1 and Msx2, from regenerating blastemas of axolotl limbs and examined their expression patterns using Northern blot and whole mount in situ hybridization during regeneration and development.

Northern blot analysis revealed that the expression level of both Msx genes increased during limb regeneration. The Msx2 expression level increased in the blastema at the early bud stage, and Msx1 expression level increased at the late bud stage. Whole mount in situ hybridization revealed that Msx2 was expressed in the distal mesenchyme and Msx1 in the entire mesenchyme of the blastema at the late bud stage.

In the developing limb bud, Msx1 was expressed in the entire mesenchyme, while Msx2 was expressed in the distal and peripheral mesenchyme.

The expression patterns of Msx genes in the blastemas and limb buds of the axolotl were different from those reported for chick or mouse limb buds. These expression patterns of axolotl Msx genes are discussed in relation to the blastema or limb bud morphology and their possible roles in limb patterning. J. Exp. Zool. 282:703–714, 1998. © 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.