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Pourqui lab identifies genes involved in formation of vertebral precursors

Kansas City, Mo. (Nov. 10, 2006) -- Mary Lee Dequeant, Ph.D., a Predoctoral Researcher at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and Olivier Pourqui, Ph.D., Stowers Institute Investigator and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, are the first and last authors, respectively, on a paper that identifies a network of cyclic genes that shed light on the molecular basis of spine formation in the embryo.

The paper was published on Science Express, the advanced publication Web site of Science Magazine on Nov. 9, 2006.

Dr. Pourqui's lab has long studied the formation of the spine and the role of an internal mechanism -- the clock oscillator -- that regulates the formation somites, the precursors of vertebrae. In their most recent findings, the team used the mouse model to demonstrate how the clock drives the periodic expression of a large network of cyclic genes involved in cell signaling. Mutually exclusive activation of the Notch/FGF and Wnt pathways during each cycle suggests that coordinated regulation of these three pathways underlies the clock oscillator.

"Our findings shed light on a fundamental aspect of the architecture of the spine by demonstrating the implication of a large network of genes involved in controlling the periodicity of the production of vertebral precursors in the embryo," said Dr. Pourqui.

"I'm excited about this work because mutation of the genes involved in the segmentation clock oscillator can cause crippling diseases in humans, such as congenital scoliosis," said Dr. Dequeant. "Our work identified many novel genes associated to the oscillator whose mutation could lead to such disease."


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Contact: Marie Jennings
mfj@stowers-institute.org
816-926-4015
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
13-Nov-2006


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