A newly identified gene MK is transiently expressed in early stages of retinoic acid-induced differentiation of embryonal carcinoma cells (Kadomatsu, K., M. Tomomura, and T. Muramatsu, 1988. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 151:1312-1318). MK gene has been predicted to code a polypeptide that is rich in basic amino acids and cysteine and is not related to any other peptides so far reported. In the present study, we investigated MK expression during mouse embryogenesis by in situ hybridization. The MK transcript was detected all over the embryo proper of the 7-d embryo, while it was not detectable in the 5-d embryo. The ubiquitous expression continued in the 9-d embryo proper. On the 11th-13th d of gestation, the sites where MK gene was intensely expressed became progressively restricted; these sites were the brain ectoderm around the lens and brain ventricles, the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, the upper and lower jaw, the caudal sclerotomic half of vertebral column, the limbs, the stomach, and the epithelial tissues of the lung, the pancreas, the small intestine, and the metanephros. These areas include the region where secondary embryonic induction is prominent. In the 15-d embryo, only the kidney expressed MK significantly. These data suggest that MK gene plays a fundamental role in the differentiation of a wide variety of cells; MK gene may also play some specific roles in generation of epithelial tissues, and remodeling of mesoderm.

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