Lim1 is a homeobox gene expressed in the extraembryonic anterior visceral endoderm and in primitive streak-derived tissues of early mouse embryos. Mice homozygous for a targeted mutation of Lim1 lack head structures anterior to rhombomere 3 in the hindbrain. To determine in which tissues Lim1 is required for head formation and its mode of action, we have generated chimeric mouse embryos and performed tissue layer recombination explant assays. In chimeric embryos in which the visceral endoderm was composed of predominantly wild-type cells, we found that Lim1(−)(/)(−) cells were able to contribute to the anterior mesendoderm of embryonic day 7.5 chimeric embryos but that embryonic day 9.5 chimeric embryos displayed a range of head defects. In addition, early somite stage chimeras generated by injecting Lim1(−)(/)(−) embryonic stem cells into wild-type tetraploid blastocysts lacked forebrain and midbrain neural tissue. Furthermore, in explant recombination assays, anterior mesendoderm from Lim1(−)(/)(−) embryos was unable to maintain the expression of the anterior neural marker gene Otx2 in wild-type ectoderm. In complementary experiments, embryonic day 9.5 chimeric embryos in which the visceral endoderm was composed of predominantly Lim1(−)(/)(−) cells and the embryo proper of largely wild-type cells, also phenocopied the Lim1(−)(/)(−) headless phenotype. These results indicate that Lim1 is required in both primitive streak-derived tissues and visceral endoderm for head formation and that its inactivation in these tissues produces cell non-autonomous defects. We discuss a double assurance model in which Lim1 regulates sequential signaling events required for head formation in the mouse.

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