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Expression of the zic1, zic2, zic3, and zic4 genes in early chick embryos

Ariel R McMahon and Christa S Merzdorf*

Author Affiliations

Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:167  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-167

Published: 16 June 2010



The zic genes encode a family of transcription factors with important roles during early development. Since little is known about zic gene expression in chick embryos, we have characterized the expression patterns of the zic1, zic2, zic3, and zic4 (zic1-4) genes during neurulation and somitogenesis.


We used in situ hybridization to analyze the expression patterns of the zic1-4 genes during early chick development (HH stages 7-19). The zic1-3 genes showed both overlapping and gene-specific expression patterns along the length of the dorsal neural tube and in the dorsal parts of the somites. In addition, unique expression domains of zic genes included: zic2 in the neural plate, periotic mesoderm and limb buds; zic3 in the paraxial mesoderm surrounding the neural plate, in presomitic mesoderm and in the most recently formed epithelial somites; zic2 and zic3 in developing eyes. zic4 expression was limited to dorsal fore- and midbrain regions and, unlike the expression of the zic1-3 genes, zic4 expression was not detected in the hindbrain and trunk. This was in contrast to more extensive zic4 expression in other vertebrates.


The zic1-3 genes were expressed in both overlapping and unique domains within the neural tube, somites and other ectoderm and mesoderm-derived structures in the future head and trunk. zic4 expression, however, was limited to dorso-anterior regions of the future brain. This is the first comprehensive study of zic1-4 gene expression in chick embryos during neurulation and somitogenesis.