The cerebellum is an ideal system to study pattern formation in the central nervous system because of its simple cytoarchitecture and regular organization of folds and neural circuitry. Engrailed-2 (En-2) is expressed in a spatially restricted broad band around the mesencephalic-metencephalic junction, a region from which the cerebellum is derived. Mice homozygous for a targeted deletion of the En-2 homeobox, En-2hd, previously have been shown to have an altered adult cerebellar foliation pattern. To address whether the En-2hd allele was hypomorphic, we generated a putative null mutation that makes an N-terminal deletion (ntd). Mice homozygous for this new mutation, En-2ntd, display an identical cerebellar patterning defect, suggesting that both alleles represent null alleles. We also examined the developmental profile of En-2 homozygous mutant cerebellar foliation. This revealed a complex phenotype of general developmental delay and abnormal formation of specific fissures with the most severe morphological disruptions being limited to the posterior region of the cerebellum. The expression of two transgenes, which express lacZ in lobe-specific patterns in the cerebellum, also was found to be altered in En-2 homozygotes, suggesting possible lobe transformations. Finally, during embryogenesis there was a clear delay in fusion of the cerebellar rudiments at the midline by 15.5 d.p.c. This and the expression pattern of En-2 suggests that although cerebellar foliation is largely a postnatal process, the patterning of the cerebellum may begin during embryogenesis and that En-2 plays a critical role in this early process.

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