The Evi1 proto-oncogene is required at midgestation for neural, heart, and paraxial mesenchyme development.
The ecotropic viral integration site-1 (Evi1) locus was initially identified as a common site of retroviral integration in myeloid tumors of the AKXD-23 recombinant inbred mouse strain. The full-length Evi1 transcript encodes a putative transcription factor, containing ten zinc finger motifs found within two domains of the protein. To determine the biological function of the Evi1 proto-oncogene, the full-length, but not an alternately spliced, transcript was disrupted using targeted mutagenesis in embryonic stem cells. Evi1 homozygous mutant embryos die at approximately 10.5 days post coitum. Mutants were distinguished at 10.5 days post coitum by widespread hypocellularity, hemorrhaging, and disruption in the development of paraxial mesenchyme. In addition, defects in the heart, somites, and cranial ganglia were detected and the peripheral nervous system failed to develop. These results correlated with whole-mount in situ hybridization analyses of embryos which showed expression of the Evi1 proto-oncogene in embryonic mesoderm and neural crest-derived cells associated with the peripheral nervous system. These data suggest that Evi1 has important roles in general cell proliferation, vascularization, and cell-specific developmental signaling, at midgestation.