We have identified and characterized a new member of the mammalian brain-specific T-box gene family, Tbr2, which is closely related to mouse Tbr1, and to the Xenopus earliest mesodermal gene, Eomesodermin. As Tbr1, Tbr2 is predominantly expressed in some regions of the developing brain, but in a strikingly complementary manner. On embryonic day 14.5 (E14.5), Tbr2 mRNA expression was observed in the mesencephalon and rhombencephalon in contrast to Tbr1 which was expressed mostly in the telencephalon. At this stage, Tbr2 mRNA was readily detectable in the postmitotic and differentiating neurons located in various brain regions, i.e., oculomotor, red, trigeminal, vestibular, facial, and hypoglossal nuclei. However, expression of Tbr2 in these nuclei became undetectable on E18.5. In contrast, Tbr2 mRNA expression was detected in the hippocampus only from E18.5 onwards. Whereas Tbr2 expression disappeared in most parts of the mature adult brain, it remained detectable in the hippocampus and olfactory bulb, regions where some neuronal precursors retain their differentiation potential. These results suggest that Tbr2 may play a crucial role in differentiating neurons rather than in proliferating or already differentiated neurons. In addition, similarly to Xenopus Eomesodermin, mouse Tbr2 showed biphasic expression; a first peak around E6.5 and a second peak around E14.5, suggesting that Tbr2 may also be important at early stages of gastrulation.
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