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Deletion of the selection cassette, but not cis-acting elements, in targeted Flk1-lacZ allele reveals Flk1 expression in multipotent mesodermal progenitors

Masatsugu Ema, Satoru Takahashi and Janet Rossant

Abstract

Flk1, the gene encoding the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2), is a well-known marker for vascular and hematopoietic progenitors and is indispensable for normal hematopoiesis and vasculogenesis. Here we show that Flk1 expression in the early mouse embryo marks a broad spectrum of mesodermal progenitors exiting the primitive streak as well as later mesodermal cell types including some cardiomyocytes, portions of the somites, and all extraembryonic mesoderm cells. These findings made use of an Flk1-lacZ knock-in allele in which the neomycin selection cassette was removed, which resulted in full replication of the endogenous expression of Flk1. Targeted deletion of a region in intron 1 that has been proposed to direct endothelial expression produced no alteration in either endothelial or broader mesodermal expression of the Flk1-lacZ allele. Examination of lacZ expression in homozygotes for the Flk1lacZ neo-out allele revealed that lacZ-expressing mesodermal cells persisted in nonvascular regions. Thus, Flk1 expression marks progenitors with broad mesodermal potential but is not absolutely required for the development of all mesodermal lineages in which it is expressed.

  • Submitted May 17, 2005.
  • Accepted August 8, 2005.
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