• mouse mutant;
  • Irx genes;
  • neural tube;
  • patterning;
  • floor plate


Sonic hedgehog (Shh), produced by the notochord and floor plate cells of the neural tube, plays a critical role in organizing dorsal–ventral patterning in the developing neural tube. We have investigated neural tube development in mouse embryos homozygous for the Fused toes (Ft) mutation, a deletion composed of genes of the Iroquois B (IrxB) cluster and of Fts, Ftm, and Fto. In Ft mutants starting from embryonic day 10.5, the floor plate appeared to degenerate and the notochord failed to undergo ventral displacement from the spinal cord. Consistent with the loss of Shh signalling from the floor plate, V3 neuron generation was reduced in Ft/Ft embryos and the domain of motor neuron generation expanded ventrally at the expense of V2 neurons. These data support the idea that Ft genes play an important role in dorsal–ventral patterning of the neural tube acting to define the extent of motor neuron generation; moreover, the data reveal a previously unanticipated function for Ft genes in the maintenance of the floor plate. Developmental Dynamics 233:623–630, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.