• RA;
  • retinoic acid receptors;
  • RARE;
  • DR2 RARE;
  • DR5 RARE;
  • Homeobox;
  • Hox;
  • Hoxb-1;
  • embryogenesis;
  • transcription;
  • gut;
  • neural epithelium;
  • hindbrain;
  • limb;
  • lung;
  • organogenesis;
  • transgenic;
  • vitamin A (retinol);
  • anterior-posterior patterning;
  • embryonal carcinoma


Expression of vertebrate Hox genes is regulated by retinoids such as retinoic acid (RA) in cell culture and in early embryonic development. Retinoic acid response elements (RAREs) have been identified in Hox gene regulatory regions, suggesting that endogenous retinoids may be involved in the direct control of Hox gene patterning functions. Previously, two RAREs located 3′ of the murine Hoxb1 gene, a DR2 RARE and a DR5 RARE, have been shown to regulate Hoxb1 mRNA expression in the neural epithelium and the foregut region, respectively; the foregut develops into the esophagus, liver, pancreas, lungs, and stomach. We have now examined the functional roles of these two types of 3′ RAREs in regulating Hoxb1 expression at different stages of gestation, from embryonic day 7.5 to 13.5, in transgenic mice carrying specific RARE mutations. We demonstrate that the DR5 RARE is required for the regulation of Hoxb-1 transgene region-specific expression in the gut and extraembryonic tissues, as well as for the RA-induced anteriorization of Hoxb-1 transgene expression in the gut. In contrast, expression of the Hoxb1 transgene in the neural epithelium requires only the DR2 RARE. By in situ hybridization, we have identified a new site of Hoxb1 expression in the developing forelimbs at approximately day 12.5, and we show that, in transgenic embryos, expression in the forelimb buds requires that either the DR2 or the DR5 RARE is functional. Attainment of a high level of Hoxb1 transgene expression in other regions, such as in rhombomere 4 (r4) and in the somites, requires that both the DR2 and DR5 RAREs are functional. In addition, our transgenic data indicate that the Hoxb1 gene is expressed in other tissues such as the hernia gut, genital eminence, and lung. Our analysis shows that endogenous retinoids act through individual DR2 and DR5 RAREs to regulate Hoxb1 expression in different regions of the embryo and that functional redundancy between these DR2 and DR5 RAREs does not exist with respect to neural epithelium and the gut Hoxb1 expression. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.