Document Type




First Advisor's Name

Lidia Kos

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Ophelia Weeks

Third Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

Fourth Advisor's Name

Alejandro Barbieri

Fifth Advisor's Name

Leung Kim


mouse, melanocytes, Endothelin receptor b, Sox10, Pax3, genetic interactions

Date of Defense



Genetic interactions that underlie developmental processes such as cell differentiation and pattern formation are complex and difficult to elucidate. Neural Crest (NC) cells and their derivatives offer an optimal system in which to probe for these complex interactions as they acquire different cell fates and constitute a variety of structures. The transcription factors Sox10 and Pax3 as well as the transmembrane receptor Endothelin receptor b (Ednrb) are temporally and spatially co-expressed early in NC cells and mutations in these genes lead to similar hypopigmentation phenotypes due to a reduced number of NC-derived melanocyte precursors, the melanoblasts. The goal of this study was to establish whether Sox10 and Ednrb or Pax3 and Ednrb interact to promote normal murine melanocyte development. Crosses of Sox10 or Pax3 with Ednrb heterozygous mutants showed that the double heterozygous hypopigmentation phenotype was significantly more pronounced than phenotypes of single heterozygotes, implying that a synergistic interaction exists between Sox10 and Ednrb and Pax3 and Ednrb. This interaction was further explored by the attempt to rescue the Sox10 and Pax3 hypopigmentation phenotypes by the transgenic addition of Ednrb to melanoblasts. Pigmentation was completely restored in the Sox10 and partially restored in the Pax3 mutant mice. The comparison of the number of melanoblasts in transgenic and non-transgenic Sox10 mutant embryos showed that the transgenic rescue occurred as early as E11.5, a critical time for melanoblast population expansion. Cell survival assays indicated that the rescue was not due to an effect of the transgene on melanoblast survival. A novel phenotype arose when studying the interaction between Ednrb and Pax3. Newborns appeared normal but by 3.5 weeks of age, the affected pups were smaller than normal littermates and developed a dome-shaped head; some also developed thoracic kyphosis. Affected pups were dead by 4 weeks of age: 80% were Pax3Sp/+ and 75% were female. When compared to normal littermates, affected mice had brains with enlarged 4th ventricles and more glia while skeletal staining showed kyphosis, wider rib cages and pelvic differences. An epistatic interaction resulting from the mixing of genetic backgrounds that is exacerbated in the presence of Pax3 heterozygosity is suspected.





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