In Drosophila, disturbing the expression of the homeobox gene caudal causes a severe disruption in body segmentation and global body patterning. There are three mouse homologues of Drosophila caudal: Cdx1 (ref. 2), Cdx2 (ref. 3) and Cdx4 (ref. 4). We have generated a null mutation of murine Cdx2 by homologous recombination. Cdx2 homozygote null mutants die between 3.5 and 5.5 days post coitum (d.p.c.). Cdx2 heterozygote mutants exhibit a variable phenotype, with many showing tail abnormalities or stunted growth. Skeletal analysis demonstrates a homeotic shift of vertebrae and compatible malformations of the ribs. Within the first three months of life, 90% of Cdx2 heterozygotes develop multiple intestinal adenomatous polyps, particularly in the proximal colon. These polyps occasionally contain areas of true metaplasia. In contrast to the surrounding intestinal epithelium, the neoplastic cells do not express Cdx2 from the remaining allele. These results suggest that Cdx2 mutation is the primary event in the genesis of some intestinal tumours.
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