Members of the Notch family of transmembrane receptors mediate a number of developmental decisions in invertebrates. In order to study Notch function in a vertebrate organism, we have mutated the Notch1 gene of the mouse. Notch1 gene function is required for embryonic survival in the second half of gestation. In the first half of gestation, we have found no effect of the mutation on the normal programs of neurogenesis, myogenesis or apoptosis. We conclude that Notch1 function is not essential for these processes, at least in early postimplantation development. However, we have found that somitogenesis is delayed and disorganized in Notch1 mutant embryos. We propose that Notch1 normally coordinates the process of somitogenesis, and we provide a model of how this might occur.
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