In Huntington's disease (HD), the size of the expanded HTT CAG repeat mutation is the primary driver of the processes that determine age at onset of motor symptoms. However, correlation of cellular biochemical parameters also extends across the normal repeat range, supporting the view that the CAG repeat represents a functional polymorphism with dominant effects determined by the longer allele. A central challenge to defining the functional consequences of this single polymorphism is the difficulty of distinguishing its subtle effects from the multitude of other sources of biological variation. We demonstrate that an analytical approach based upon continuous correlation with CAG size was able to capture the modest (∼21%) contribution of the repeat to the variation in genome-wide gene expression in 107 lymphoblastoid cell lines, with alleles ranging from 15 to 92 CAGs. Furthermore, a mathematical model from an iterative strategy yielded predicted CAG repeat lengths that were significantly positively correlated with true CAG allele size and negatively correlated with age at onset of motor symptoms. Genes negatively correlated with repeat size were also enriched in a set of genes whose expression were CAG-correlated in human HD cerebellum. These findings both reveal the relatively small, but detectable impact of variation in the CAG allele in global data in these peripheral cells and provide a strategy for building multi-dimensional data-driven models of the biological network that drives the HD disease process by continuous analysis across allelic panels of neuronal cells vulnerable to the dominant effects of the HTT CAG repeat.
Exposure to environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens) may play a causal role in the increased breast cancer incidence which has been observed in Europe and the US over the last 50 years. The xenoestrogen bisphenol A (BPA) leaches from plastic food/beverage containers and dental materials. Fetal exposure to BPA induces preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions in the adult rat mammary gland. Previous results suggest that BPA acts through the estrogen receptors which are detected exclusively in the mesenchyme during the exposure period by directly altering gene expression, leading to alterations of the reciprocal interactions between mesenchyme and epithelium. This initiates a long sequence of altered morphogenetic events leading to neoplastic transformation. Additionally, BPA induces epigenetic changes in some tissues. To explore this mechanism in the mammary gland, Wistar-Furth rats were exposed subcutaneously via osmotic pumps to vehicle or 250 µg BPA/kg BW/day, a dose that induced ductal carcinomas in situ. Females exposed from gestational day 9 to postnatal day (PND) 1 were sacrificed at PND4, PND21 and at first estrus after PND50. Genomic DNA (gDNA) was isolated from the mammary tissue and immuno-precipitated using anti-5-methylcytosine antibodies. Detection and quantification of gDNA methylation status using the Nimblegen ChIP array revealed 7412 differentially methylated gDNA segments (out of 58207 segments), with the majority of changes occurring at PND21. Transcriptomal analysis revealed that the majority of gene expression differences between BPA- and vehicle-treated animals were observed later (PND50). BPA exposure resulted in higher levels of pro-activation histone H3K4 trimethylation at the transcriptional initiation site of the alpha-lactalbumin gene at PND4, concomitantly enhancing mRNA expression of this gene. These results show that fetal BPA exposure triggers changes in the postnatal and adult mammary gland epigenome and alters gene expression patterns. These events may contribute to the development of pre-neoplastic and neoplastic lesions that manifest during adulthood.
For years, scientists from various disciplines have studied the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on the health and wellbeing of humans and wildlife. Some studies have specifically focused on the effects of low doses, i.e. those in the range that are thought to be safe for humans and/or animals. Others have focused on the existence of non-monotonic dose-response curves. These concepts challenge the way that chemical risk assessment is performed for EDCs. Continued discussions have clarified exactly what controversies and challenges remain. We address several of these issues, including why the study and regulation of EDCs should incorporate endocrine principles; what level of consensus there is for low dose effects; challenges to our understanding of non-monotonicity; and whether EDCs have been demonstrated to produce adverse effects. This discussion should result in a better understanding of these issues, and allow for additional dialogue on their impact on risk assessment.
weight of evidence; organizational; adaptive effect; hormesis; human exposure; epidemiology; flare
The length of the huntingtin (HTT) CAG repeat is strongly correlated with both age at onset of Huntington’s disease (HD) symptoms and age at death of HD patients. Dichotomous analysis comparing HD to controls is widely used to study the effects of HTT CAG repeat expansion. However, a potentially more powerful approach is a continuous analysis strategy that takes advantage of all of the different CAG lengths, to capture effects that are expected to be critical to HD pathogenesis.
We used continuous and dichotomous approaches to analyze microarray gene expression data from 107 human control and HD lymphoblastoid cell lines. Of all probes found to be significant in a continuous analysis by CAG length, only 21.4% were so identified by a dichotomous comparison of HD versus controls. Moreover, of probes significant by dichotomous analysis, only 33.2% were also significant in the continuous analysis. Simulations revealed that the dichotomous approach would require substantially more than 107 samples to either detect 80% of the CAG-length correlated changes revealed by continuous analysis or to reduce the rate of significant differences that are not CAG length-correlated to 20% (n = 133 or n = 206, respectively). Given the superior power of the continuous approach, we calculated the correlation structure between HTT CAG repeat lengths and gene expression levels and created a freely available searchable website, “HD CAGnome,” that allows users to examine continuous relationships between HTT CAG and expression levels of ∼20,000 human genes.
Our results reveal limitations of dichotomous approaches compared to the power of continuous analysis to study a disease where human genotype-phenotype relationships strongly support a role for a continuum of CAG length-dependent changes. The compendium of HTT CAG length-gene expression level relationships found at the HD CAGnome now provides convenient routes for discovery of candidates influenced by the HD mutation.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been generated by enforced expression of defined sets of transcription factors in somatic cells. It remains controversial whether iPSCs are molecularly and functionally equivalent to blastocyst-derived embryonic stem cells (ESCs). By comparing genetically identical mouse ESCs and iPSCs, we show here that the overall mRNA and miRNA expression patterns of these cell types are indistinguishable with the exception of a few transcripts and miRNAs encoded on chromosome 12qF1. Specifically, maternally expressed imprinted genes in the Dlk1-Dio3 cluster including Gtl2, Rian and Mirg as well as a larger number of miRNAs encoded within this region were aberrantly silenced in the majority of iPSC clones, irrespective of their cell type of origin. Consistent with a developmental role of the Dlk1-Dio3 gene cluster, iPSC clones with repressed Gtl2 contributed poorly to chimeras and failed to support the development of entirely iPSC-derived animals (“all-iPSC mice”). In contrast, iPSC clones with normal expression levels of these genes contributed to high-grade chimeras and generated viable all-iPSC mice. Importantly, treatment of an iPSC clone that had silenced Dlk1-Dio3 and failed to give rise to all-iPSC animals with a histone deacetylase inhibitor reactivated the locus and rescued its ability to support full-term development of exclusively iPSC-derived mice. Thus, the expression state of a single imprinted gene cluster distinguishes most murine iPSCs from ESCs and allows for the prospective identification of iPSC clones that have the full development potential of ESCs.
KRAS is the most commonly mutated oncogene, yet no effective targeted therapies exist for KRAS mutant cancers. We developed a pooled shRNA-drug screen strategy to identify genes that, when inhibited, cooperate with MEK inhibitors to effectively treat KRAS mutant cancer cells. The anti-apoptotic BH3 family gene BCL-XL emerged as a top hit through this approach. ABT-263 (navitoclax), a chemical inhibitor that blocks the ability of BCL-XL to bind and inhibit pro-apoptotic proteins, in combination with a MEK inhibitor led to dramatic apoptosis in many KRAS mutant cell lines from different tissue types. This combination caused marked in vivo tumor regressions in KRAS mutant xenografts and in a genetically engineered KRAS-driven lung cancer mouse model, supporting combined BCL-XL/MEK inhibition as a potential therapeutic approach for KRAS mutant cancers.
Proper coordination of cholesterol biosynthesis and trafficking is essential to human health. The sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs) are key transcription regulators of genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis/uptake. We show here that microRNAs (miR-33a/b) embedded within introns of the SREBP genes target the ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1), an important regulator of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) synthesis and reverse cholesterol transport, for post-transcriptional repression. Antisense inhibition of miR-33 in cell lines causes upregulation of ABCA1 expression and increased cholesterol efflux, and injection of mice on a western-type diet with locked nucleic acid (LNA)-antisense oligonucleotides results in elevated plasma HDL. Collectively, our findings indicate that miR-33 acts in concert with the SREBP host genes to control cholesterol homeostasis, and suggest that miR-33 may represent a therapeutic target for ameliorating cardiometabolic diseases.
Sex of birds is genetically determined through inheritance of the ZW sex chromosomes (ZZ males and ZW females). Although the mechanisms of avian sex determination remains unknown, the genetic sex is experimentally reversible by in ovo exposure to exogenous estrogens (ZZ-male feminization) or aromatase inhibitors (ZW-female masculinization). Expression of various testis- and ovary-specific marker genes during the normal and reversed gonadal sex differentiation in chicken embryos has been extensively studied, but the roles of sex-specific epigenetic marks in sex differentiation are unknown. In this study, we show that a 170-nt region in the promoter of CYP19A1/aromatase, a key gene required for ovarian estrogen biosynthesis and feminization of chicken embryonic gonads, contains highly quantitative, nucleotide base-level epigenetic marks that reflect phenotypic gonadal sex differentiation. We developed a protocol to feminize ZZ-male chicken embryonic gonads in a highly quantitative manner by direct injection of emulsified ethynylestradiol into yolk at various developmental stages. Taking advantage of this experimental sex reversal model, we show that the epigenetic sex marks in the CYP19A1/aromatase promoter involving DNA methylation and histone lysine methylation are feminized significantly but only partially in sex-converted gonads even when morphological and transcriptional marks of sex differentiation show complete feminization, being indistinguishable from gonads of normal ZW females. Our study suggests that the epigenetic sex of chicken embryonic gonads is more stable than the morphologically or transcriptionally characterized sex differentiation, suggesting the importance of the nucleotide base-level epigenetic sex in gonadal sex differentiation.
Quantitative epigenetic marks in the CYP19A1/aromatase promoter in male chicken embryonic gonads reveal that epigenetic sex is more resistant to estrogen-induced sex reversal than morphological or transcriptional sex factors.
embryo; endocrine disruptors; epigenetics; gene regulation; sex determination
Exposure of rodent fetuses to low doses of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) causes subtle morphological changes in the prenatal mammary gland and results in pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions during adulthood. To examine whether the BPA-induced morphological alterations of the fetal mouse mammary glands are a) associated with changes in mRNA expression reflecting estrogenic actions and/or b) dependent on the estrogen receptor α (ERα), we compared the transcriptomal effects of BPA and the steroidal estrogen ethinylestradiol (EE2) on fetal mammary tissues of wild type and ERα knock-out mice. Mammary glands from fetuses of dams exposed to vehicle, 250 ng BPA/kg BW/d or 10 ng EE2/kg BW/d from embryonic day (E) 8 were harvested at E19. Transcriptomal analyses on the ductal epithelium and periductal stroma revealed altered expression of genes involved in the focal adhesion and adipogenesis pathways in the BPA-exposed stroma while genes regulating the apoptosis pathway changed their expression in the BPA-exposed epithelium. These changes in gene expression correlated with previously reported histological changes in matrix organization, adipogenesis, and lumen formation resulting in enhanced maturation of the fat-pad and delayed lumen formation in the epithelium of BPA-exposed fetal mammary glands. Overall similarities in the transcriptomal effects of BPA and EE2 were more pronounced in the epithelium, than in the stroma. In addition, the effects of BPA and EE2 on the expression of various genes involved in mammary stromal-epithelial interactions were suppressed in the absence of ERα. These observations support a model whereby BPA and EE2 act directly on the stroma, which expresses ERα, ERβ and GPR30 in fetal mammary glands, and that the stroma, in turn, affects gene expression in the epithelium, where ERα and ERβ are below the level of detection at this stage of development.
Fulvestrant is a representative pure antiestrogen and a Selective Estrogen Receptor Down-regulator (SERD). In contrast to the Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) such as 4-hydroxytamoxifen that bind to estrogen receptor α (ERα) as antagonists or partial agonists, fulvestrant causes proteasomal degradation of ERα protein, shutting down the estrogen signaling to induce proliferation arrest and apoptosis of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells. We performed genome-wide RNAi knockdown screenings for protein kinases required for fulvestrant-induced apoptosis of the MCF-7 estrogen-dependent human breast caner cells and identified the c-Src tyrosine kinase (CSK), a negative regulator of the oncoprotein c-Src and related protein tyrosine kinases, as one of the necessary molecules. Whereas RNAi knockdown of CSK in MCF-7 cells by shRNA-expressing lentiviruses strongly suppressed fulvestrant-induced cell death, CSK knockdown did not affect cytocidal actions of 4-hydroxytamoxifen or paclitaxel, a chemotherapeutic agent. In the absence of CSK, fulvestrant-induced proteasomal degradation of ERα protein was suppressed in both MCF-7 and T47D estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells whereas the TP53-mutated T47D cells were resistant to the cytocidal action of fulvestrant in the presence or absence of CSK. MCF-7 cell sensitivities to fulvestrant-induced cell death or ERα protein degradation was not affected by small-molecular-weight inhibitors of the tyrosine kinase activity of c-Src, suggesting possible involvement of other signaling molecules in CSK-dependent MCF-7 cell death induced by fulvestrant. Our observations suggest the importance of CSK in the determination of cellular sensitivity to the cytocidal action of fulvestrant.
The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) often results in aberrant epigenetic silencing of the imprinted Dlk1-Dio3 gene cluster, which compromises the cells’ ability to generate entirely iPSC-derived adult mice (“all-iPSC mice”). Here, we show that reprogramming in the presence of ascorbic acid attenuates hypermethylation of Dlk1-Dio3 by enabling a chromatin configuration that interferes with binding of the de novo DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3a. This allowed us to generate all-iPSC mice from mature B cells, which have thus far failed to support the development of exclusively iPSC-derived postnatal animals. Our data demonstrate that transcription factor-mediated reprogramming can endow a defined, terminally differentiated cell type with a developmental potential equivalent to that of embryonic stem cells. More generally, these findings indicate that culture conditions during cellular reprogramming can strongly influence the epigenetic and biological properties of resultant iPSCs.
Sterol Regulatory Element-Binding Proteins (SREBPs) activate genes involved in the synthesis and trafficking of cholesterol and other lipids, and therefore are critical for maintaining lipid homeostasis. Aberrant SREBP activity, however, can result in excess stored fat and contribute to obesity, fatty liver disease and insulin resistance, hallmarks of metabolic syndrome. Our studies identify a conserved regulatory circuit in which SREBP-1 controls production of the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Methylation is critical for synthesis of phosphatidylcholine (PC), a major membrane component, and we find that blocking SAMe or PC synthesis in C. elegans, mouse liver and human cells causes elevated SREBP-1-dependent transcription and lipid droplet accumulation. Distinct from negative regulation of SREBP-2 by cholesterol, our data suggest a mechanism where maturation of nuclear, transcriptionally active SREBP-1 is controlled by levels of PC. Thus, nutritional or genetic conditions limiting SAMe or PC production may activate SREBP-1, contributing to human metabolic disorders.
Huntington's disease (HD) involves marked early neurodegeneration in the striatum, whereas the cerebellum is relatively spared despite the ubiquitous expression of full-length mutant huntingtin, implying that inherent tissue-specific differences determine susceptibility to the HD CAG mutation. To understand this tissue specificity, we compared early mutant huntingtin-induced gene expression changes in striatum to those in cerebellum in young Hdh CAG knock-in mice, prior to onset of evident pathological alterations. Endogenous levels of full-length mutant huntingtin caused qualitatively similar, but quantitatively different gene expression changes in the two brain regions. Importantly, the quantitatively different responses in the striatum and cerebellum in mutant mice were well accounted for by the intrinsic molecular differences in gene expression between the striatum and cerebellum in wild-type animals. Tissue-specific gene expression changes in response to the HD mutation, therefore, appear to reflect the different inherent capacities of these tissues to buffer qualitatively similar effects of mutant huntingtin. These findings highlight a role for intrinsic quantitative tissue differences in contributing to HD pathogenesis, and likely to other neurodegenerative disorders exhibiting tissue-specificity, thereby guiding the search for effective therapeutic interventions.
Huntington's disease is initiated by the expression of a CAG repeat-encoded polyglutamine region in full-length huntingtin, with dominant effects that vary continuously with CAG size. The mechanism could involve a simple gain of function or a more complex gain of function coupled to a loss of function (e.g. dominant negative-graded loss of function). To distinguish these alternatives, we compared genome-wide gene expression changes correlated with CAG size across an allelic series of heterozygous CAG knock-in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell lines (HdhQ20/7, HdhQ50/7, HdhQ91/7, HdhQ111/7), to genes differentially expressed between Hdhex4/5/ex4/5 huntingtin null and wild-type (HdhQ7/7) parental ES cells. The set of 73 genes whose expression varied continuously with CAG length had minimal overlap with the 754-member huntingtin-null gene set but the two were not completely unconnected. Rather, the 172 CAG length-correlated pathways and 238 huntingtin-null significant pathways clustered into 13 shared categories at the network level. A closer examination of the energy metabolism and the lipid/sterol/lipoprotein metabolism categories revealed that CAG length-correlated genes and huntingtin-null-altered genes either were different members of the same pathways or were in unique, but interconnected pathways. Thus, varying the polyglutamine size in full-length huntingtin produced gene expression changes that were distinct from, but related to, the effects of lack of huntingtin. These findings support a simple gain-of-function mechanism acting through a property of the full-length huntingtin protein and point to CAG-correlative approaches to discover its effects. Moreover, for therapeutic strategies based on huntingtin suppression, our data highlight processes that may be more sensitive to the disease trigger than to decreased huntingtin levels.
Fulvestrant is known to promote the degradation of the estrogen receptor (ER) in the nucleus. However, fulvestrant also promotes the aggregation of the newly synthesized ER in the cytoplasm. Accumulation of protein aggregates leads to cell death but this effect is limited as a result of their elimination by the proteasome. We tested whether combining fulvestrant with the proteasome inhibitor, bortezomib, could enhance the accumulation of ER aggregates and cause apoptotic cell death.
The rate of aggregation of the ER was monitored in ER+ breast cancer cells lines, T47D, ZR-75.1, BT474, MDA-MB-361, MCF-7, fulvestrant resistance MCF-7, and tamoxifen-resistant T47D-cyclin D1 cells. Activation of the unfolded protein response, apoptosis, and metabolic rate were also monitored in these cell lines following treatment with fulvestrant, bortezomib, or bortezomib in combination with fulvestrant.
We found that bortezomib enhances the fulvestrant-mediated aggregation of the ER in the cytoplasm without blocking the degradation of the ER in the nucleus. Further, these aggregates activate a sustained unfolded protein response leading to apoptotic cell death. Further, we show that the combination induced tumor regression in a breast cancer mouse model of tamoxifen resistance.
Adding bortezomib to fulvestrant enhances its efficacy by taking advantage of the unique ability of fulvestrant to promote cytoplasmic aggregates of the ER. As this effect of fulvestrant is independent of the transcriptional activity of the ER, these results suggest that this novel combination may be effective in breast cancers that are ER+ but estrogen independent.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been derived from various somatic cell populations through ectopic expression of defined factors. It remains unclear whether iPSCs generated from different cell types are molecularly and functionally similar. Here we show that iPSCs obtained from mouse fibroblasts, hematopoietic and myogenic cells exhibit distinct transcriptional and epigenetic patterns. Moreover, we demonstrate that cellular origin influences the in vitro differentiation potentials of iPSCs into embryoid bodies and different hematopoietic cell types. Notably, continuous passaging of iPSCs largely attenuates these differences. Our results suggest that early-passage iPSCs retain a transient epigenetic memory of their somatic cells of origin, which manifests as differential gene expression and altered differentiation capacity. These observations may influence ongoing attempts to use iPSCs for disease modeling and could also be exploited in potential therapeutic applications to enhance differentiation into desired cell lineages.
Yin Yang 1 (YY1) is a critical transcription factor controlling cell proliferation, development and DNA damage responses. Retrotranspositions have independently generated additional YY family members in multiple species. Although Drosophila YY1 [pleiohomeotic (Pho)] and its homolog [pleiohomeotic-like (Phol)] redundantly control homeotic gene expression, the regulatory contributions of YY1-homologs have not yet been examined in other species. Indeed, targets for the mammalian YY1 homolog YY2 are completely unknown. Using gene set enrichment analysis, we found that lentiviral constructs containing short hairpin loop inhibitory RNAs for human YY1 (shYY1) and its homolog YY2 (shYY2) caused significant changes in both shared and distinguishable gene sets in human cells. Ribosomal protein genes were the most significant gene set upregulated by both shYY1 and shYY2, although combined shYY1/2 knock downs were not additive. In contrast, shYY2 reversed the anti-proliferative effects of shYY1, and shYY2 particularly altered UV damage response, platelet-specific and mitochondrial function genes. We found that decreases in YY1 or YY2 caused inverse changes in UV sensitivity, and that their combined loss reversed their respective individual effects. Our studies show that human YY2 is not redundant to YY1, and YY2 is a significant regulator of genes previously identified as uniquely responding to YY1.
Activating BRAF kinase mutations arise in about 7% of all human tumors, and pre-clinical studies have validated the RAF-MEK-ERK signaling cascade as a potentially important therapeutic target in this setting. Selective RAF kinase inhibitors are currently undergoing clinical development, and based on the experience with other kinase-targeted therapeutics, it is expected that clinical responses to these agents, if observed, will lead to the eventual emergence of drug resistance in most cases. Thus, it is important to establish molecular mechanisms underlying such resistance in order to develop effective therapeutic strategies to overcome or prevent drug resistance. To anticipate potential mechanisms of acquired resistance to RAF inhibitors during the course of treatment, we established drug-resistant clones from a human melanoma-derived cell line harboring the recurrent V600E activating BRAF mutation, which exhibits exquisite sensitivity to AZ628, a selective RAF kinase inhibitor. We determined that elevated CRAF protein levels account for the acquisition of resistance to AZ628 in these cells, associated with a switch from BRAF to CRAF dependency in tumor cells. We also found that elevated CRAF protein levels may similarly contribute to primary insensitivity to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF mutant tumor cells. Interestingly, AZ628-resistant cells demonstrating either primary drug insensitivity or acquired drug resistance exhibit exquisite sensitivity to the HSP90 inhibitor geldanamycin. Geldanamycin effectively promotes the degradation of CRAF, thereby revealing a potential therapeutic strategy to overcome resistance to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF-mutant tumors.
Blood vascular endothelial cells (BECs) and the developmentally related lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) create complementary, yet distinct vascular networks. Each endothelial cell type interacts with flowing fluid and circulating cells, yet each vascular system has evolved specialized gene expression programs and thus both cell types display different phenotypes. BECs and LECs express distinct genes that are unique to their specific vascular microenvironment. Tumors also take advantage of the molecules that are expressed in these vascular systems to enhance their metastatic potential. We completed transcriptome analyses on primary cultured LECs and BECs, where each comparative set was isolated from the same individual. Differences were resolved in the expression of several major categories, such as cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), cytokines, and cytokine receptors. We have identified new molecules that are associated with BECs (e.g., claudin-9, CXCL11, neurexin-1, neurexin-2, and the neuronal growth factor regulator-1) and LECs (e.g., claudin-7, CD58, hyaluronan and proteoglycan link protein 1 (HAPLN1), and the poliovirus receptor-related 3 molecule) that may lead to novel therapeutic treatments for diseases of lymphatic or blood vessels, including metastasis of cancer to lymph nodes or distant organs.
Lymphangiogenesis; microarray; LEC; BEC; endothelial
Cited1 is a transcriptional cofactor that interacts with Smad4, estrogen receptors α and β, TFAP2, and CBP/p300. It is expressed in a restricted manner in the embryo as well as in extraembryonic tissues during embryonic development. In this study we report the engineering of a loss-of-function Cited1 mutation in the mouse. Cited1 null mutants show growth restriction at 18.5 days postcoitum, and most of them die shortly after birth. Half the heterozygous females, i.e., those that carry a paternally inherited wild-type Cited1 allele, are similarly affected. Cited1 is normally expressed in trophectoderm-derived cells of the placenta; however, in these heterozygous females, Cited1 is not expressed in these cells. This occurs because Cited1 is located on the X chromosome, and thus the wild-type Cited1 allele is not expressed because the paternal X chromosome is preferentially inactivated. Loss of Cited1 resulted in abnormal placental development. In mutants, the spongiotrophoblast layer is irregular in shape and enlarged while the labyrinthine layer is reduced in size. In addition, the blood spaces within the labyrinthine layer are disrupted; the maternal sinusoids are considerably larger in mutants, leading to a reduction in the surface area available for nutrient exchange. We conclude that Cited1 is required in trophoblasts for normal placental development and subsequently for embryo viability.