Cdx genes (Cdx1, Cdx2, and Cdx4) encode a family of caudal-related transcription factors that mediate anterior-posterior patterning during embryogenesis through Hox gene regulation. Homologues in the zebrafish have been shown to play key roles in blood formation. To define the role of Cdx genes during embryonic hematopoiesis in a mammalian system, we examined the hematopoietic potential of Cdx-deficient mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in vitro and in vivo. Individual Cdx-deficient ESCs exhibited impaired embryonic hematopoietic progenitor formation and altered Hox gene expression, most notably for Cdx2 deficiency. A more severe hematopoietic defect was observed with compound Cdx deficiency than loss of function of any single Cdx gene. Reduced hematopoietic progenitor formation of ESCs deficient in multiple Cdx genes could be rescued by ectopic expression of Cdx4, concomitant with partially restored Hox gene expression. These results reveal an essential and partially redundant role for multiple Cdx genes during embryonic hematopoiesis in the mouse.
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