Abstract 3937: Generation and Analysis of Neural Crest- and Endothelial-specific Mutant Mice for Foxc1
The forkhead transcription factor Foxc1 has been implicated in craniofacial, ocular and cardiovascular development. Foxc1 is expressed in mesoderm- and neural crest (NC)-derived cells, including endothelial cells (ECs) of the heart and blood vessels and vascular smooth muscle cells. However, the precise role of Foxc1 in specific cell types still remains unclear. Therefore, to define the distinct function of Foxc1 in NC and EC, we have generated conditional mutant mice for Foxc1 crossed with either Tie2-Cre or Wnt1-Cre mice. EC-specific Foxc1 mutants survive until adulthood with no apparent embryonic defects, although they show vascular abnormalities in the adult. By contrast, NC-specific Foxc1 mutants die perinately with haemorrhagic hydrocephalus, rudimentary frontal bones, and abnormal patterning of the aortic arch. NC-derived cells also give rise to the stroma and endothelium of the cornea, an avascular organ whose transparency is critical for vision. Importantly, we found that NC-specific Foxc1 mutants show failure of the formation of the anterior chamber and corneal endothelium in the eye. Mutant corneal stroma is much thicker than normal with increased cell proliferation. Most Intriguingly, NC-specific Foxc1 mutants exhibit ectopic neovascularization in the cornea with significant upregulation of Mmp9, sFlt1, Flt1 and Tek at E15.5, while Vegfa and Fgf expression is not changed. By contrast, the cornea of EC-specific Foxc1 mutants is normally formed and avascular. These data suggest that the cell-autonomous function of Foxc1 in the neural crest is essential for craniofacial and cardiovascular development and that Foxc1 plays an important role in inhibition of vascular formation in the cornea.