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Inositol- and folate-resistant neural tube defects in mice lacking the epithelial-specific factor Grhl-3.

Ting S.B., Wilanowski T., Auden A., Hall M., Voss A.K., Thomas T., Parekh V., Cunningham J.M., Jane S.M.

The neural tube defects (NTDs) spina bifida and anencephaly are widely prevalent severe birth defects. The mouse mutant curly tail (ct/ct) has served as a model of NTDs for 50 years, even though the responsible genetic defect remained unrecognized. Here we show by gene targeting, mapping and genetic complementation studies that a mouse homolog of the Drosophila grainyhead (grh) gene, grainyhead-like-3 (Grhl3), is a compelling candidate for the gene underlying the curly tail phenotype. The NTDs in Grhl3-null mice are more severe than those in the curly tail strain, as the Grhl3 alleles in ct/ct mice are hypomorphic. Spina bifida in ct/ct mice is folate resistant, but its incidence can be markedly reduced by maternal inositol supplementation periconceptually. The NTDs in Grhl3-/-embryos are also folate resistant, but unlike those in ct/ct mice, they are resistant to inositol. These findings suggest that residual Grhl3 expression in ct/ct mice may be required for inositol rescue of folate-resistant NTDs.

Nat. Med. 9:1513-1519(2003) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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