Mechanisms of development

Dlx5- and Dlx6-mediated chondrogenesis: Differential domain requirements for a conserved function.

PMID 17027239


During endochondral ossification in the vertebrate limb, multipotent mesenchymal cells first differentiate into chondroblasts (chondrogenesis) that further differentiate (via chondrocyte hypertrophy) to a terminal cellular phenotype. Dlx5 and Dlx6 are functionally redundant regulators of chondrocyte hypertrophy. We now show that Dlx5 and Dlx6 also regulate the earlier step of chondrogenesis in the limb. Limb bud mesenchymal cells from Dlx5/6(-/-) embryos show reduced chondrogenesis compared to wild-type littermates, and expression of either Dlx5 or Dlx6 stimulated differentiation of limb bud mesenchymal cells to chondroblasts. The functional overlap between Dlx5 and Dlx6 occurs despite the fact that the amino- and carboxyl-terminal domains of the encoded proteins are dissimilar. In order to reconcile the disparity between the divergent structures of Dlx5 and Dlx6 with their overlapping biological functions, we investigated the domain requirements and transcriptional activities associated with Dlx5- and Dlx6-mediated chondrogenesis. We find distinct domain requirements for the chondrogenic function of these related homeoproteins, indicating divergent molecular mechanisms of action.