A role of the cryptic gene in the correct establishment of the left-right axis


  • U. Gaio
  • A. Schweickert
  • A. Fischer
  • A.N. Garratt
  • T. Mueller
  • C. Oezcelik
  • W. Lankes
  • M. Strehle
  • S. Britsch
  • M. Blum
  • C. Birchmeier


  • Current Biology


  • Curr Biol 9 (22): 1339-1342


  • During vertebrate embryogenesis, a left-right axis is established. The heart, associated vessels and inner organs adopt asymmetric spatial arrangements and morphologies. Secreted growth factors of the TGF-beta family, including nodal, lefty-1 and lefty-2, play crucial roles in establishing left-right asymmetries [1] [2] [3]. In zebrafish, nodal signalling requires the presence of one-eyed pinhead (oep), a member of the EGF-CFC family of membrane-associated proteins [4]. We have generated a mutant allele of cryptic, a mouse EGF-CFC gene [5]. Homozygous cryptic mutants developed to birth, but the majority died during the first week of life because of complex cardiac malformations such as malpositioning of the great arteries, and atrial-ventricular septal defects. Moreover, laterality defects, including right isomerism of the lungs, right or left positioning of the stomach and splenic hypoplasia were observed. Nodal gene expression in the node was initiated in cryptic mutant mice, but neither nodal, lefty-2 nor Pitx2 were expressed in the left lateral plate mesoderm. The laterality defects observed in cryptic(-/-) mice resemble those of mice lacking the type IIB activin receptor or the homeobox-containing factor Pitx2 [6] [7] [8] [9], and are reminiscent of the human asplenic syndrome [10]. Our results provide genetic evidence for a role of cryptic in the signalling cascade that determines left-right asymmetry.