We have raised an antiserum, designated alpha Enhb-1, to a portion of the mouse En-2 protein containing the homeodomain. The antiserum detects both the En-1 and En-2 proteins in mouse, chick and Xenopus embryos by Western blot analysis. Using whole-mount immunohistochemistry, combined in some cases with scanning electron microscopy, we have examined the distribution of the proteins in the early embryos of these species. The major features of expression were similar. The initial production of En protein occurred, just before or during the formation of the first somites, in a band of the anterior neural plate in the prospective mid/hindbrain region. Later in development En-1 protein accumulated in the ventral ectoderm of the developing mouse and chick limb buds, indicating that a dorsal-ventral polarity is present as soon as any limb bud swelling is apparent and that, at least in the mouse, this polarity is established independently of the apical ectodermal ridge. In all three species, alpha Enhb-1 bound to a subset of ventro-lateral differentiating neurons in the spinal cord and hindbrain and their pattern of birth in the mouse reflected the division of the hindbrain into rhombomeres. En-1 protein also accumulated in a lateral stripe of dermatome in the mouse and chick, indicating a dorsal-ventral subdivision of this tissue. The results show that En expression is a good marker for pattern formation in a variety of tissues and will be useful in experimental studies designed to characterize further these processes.

This content is only available via PDF.