The pattern of expression of tropoelastin mRNA in the arterial tree of developing chick has been studied by in situ hybridization. Significant hybridization was noted in 5.5-day embryos in the region of the truncus arteriosus where aorta and pulmonary artery had newly separated. The activation of expression then propagated centrifugally and longitudinal gradients of mRNA decreasing from the heart to the periphery were established. For almost two-thirds of the embryonic period, the hybridization signal was rather uniform over the entire wall of the arterial vessels. Later, however, its distribution varied depending on the type of artery (elastic or muscular) and on the developmental stage. A radial gradient of tropoelastin mRNA expression decreasing in the in-out direction was formed in elastic arteries. This was first seen in the pulmonary artery (15-day chick embryos) and became detectable in the vessels of the general circulation only much later (2 weeks after hatching). The appearance of the radial gradient was followed by a general reduction of mRNA synthesis. In muscular arteries radial gradients were also established, but had, however, an opposite polarity; in small arteries a ring of hybridization was evident at the media-adventitia border. The results indicate that the expression of the tropoelastin gene in cells of the arterial wall is finely regulated, depending on the coordinates in the arterial tree, the type of artery and the organ supplied.
- expression gradients
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