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A DNA-Binding Protein Helps Repair Breaks in DNA Double Helix

PLoS Biology
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020074
  • Synopsis
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology/Structural Biology
  • Saccharomyces
  • Biology


PLBI0201_001-029.indd January 2004 | Volume 2 | Issue 1 | Page 0002PLoS Biology | A New Gene That Shapes Mouse Pigmentation Patterning Scientists have long known that variation in animal color patterns carry far more than cosmetic signifi cance. Darwin fi rst connected pigmentation with adaptive advantage, noting that male fi nches with bright red plumage enjoyed greater reproductive success than their drab competitors. Explaining why coloration confers such advantages, however, has proved somewhat easier than showing how it arises. Biologists studying how neighboring regions of the vertebrate body plan develop differences in appearance and form have identifi ed a small number of signaling pathways common to all animals. How and whether these pathways also control the developmental expression and variation of surface attributes like hair color, hair density, and hair length are unclear. By studying an old mouse mutant called droopy ear, Gregory Barsh and colleagues show that a member of the well-known family of T-box genes is required for a key pigmentation pattern in mice. Many vertebrate species—be they fi sh, bird, or mammal—have a much lighter belly than back. Studies in mice indicate these dorsoventral pigment differences arise from differential expression of the Agouti gene in the ventral and dorsal regions of the developing mouse; Agouti produces a pale yellow color and thus mice with light bellies have Agouti expressed in their ventral but not dorsal region. Droopy ear was discovered more than 50 years ago by virtue of its effects on head and ear shape, but it also affects pigmentation patterns; mutant mice have expanded ventral-specifi c Agouti expression into the dorsal region. First, Sophie Candille, a graduate student in Barsh’s laboratory, searched for the gene that underlies the defect in droopy ear. When the researchers homed in on the chromosomal region known to harbor droopy ear, they found T

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