The midbrain-hindbrain (MHB) junction has the properties of an organizer that patterns the MHB region early in vertebrate development. Fgf8 is thought to mediate this organizer function. In addition to Fgf8, Fgf17 and Fgf18 are also expressed in the MHB junction. Fgf17 is expressed later and broader than either Fgf8 or Fgf18. Disrupting the Fgf17 gene in the mouse decreased precursor cell proliferation in the medial cerebellar (vermis) anlage after E11.5. Loss of an additional copy of Fgf8 enhanced the phenotype and accelerated its onset, demonstrating that both molecules cooperate to regulate the size of the precursor pool of cells that develop into the cerebellar vermis. However, expression patterns of Wnt1, En2, Pax5 and Otx2 were not altered suggesting that specification and patterning of MHB tissue was not perturbed and that these FGFs are not required to pattern the vermis at this stage of development. The consequence of this developmental defect is a progressive, dose-dependent loss of the most anterior lobe of the vermis in mice lacking Fgf17 and in mice lacking Fgf17 and one copy of Fgf8. Significantly, the differentiation of anterior vermis neuroepithelium was shifted rostrally and medially demonstrating that FGF also regulates the polarized progression of differentiation in the vermis anlage. Finally, this developmental defect results in an ataxic gait in some mice.

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