Several transcription factors have a critical function during initial stages of vertebrate eye formation. In this paper, we discuss the role of the Rx subfamily of homeobox-containing genes in retinal development, and the role of the Foxe3 and FoxE4 subfamily of forkhead box-containing genes in lens development. Rx genes are expressed in the initial stages of retinal development and they play a critical role in eye formation. Elimination of Rx function in mice results in lack of eye formation. Abnormal eye development observed in the mouse mutation eyeless (ey1), the medakatemperature-sensitive mutation eyeless (el), and the zebrafish mutation chokh are caused by abnormal regulation or function of Rx genes. In humans, a mutation in Rx leads to anophthalmia. In contrast, Foxe3 and FoxE4 genes are expressed in the lens and they play an essential role in its formation. Mutations in the Foxe3 gene are the cause of the mouse mutation dysgenetic lens (dyl) and in humans, mutation in FOXE3 leads to anterior segment dysgenesis and cataracts. Since Rx and FoxE4 are expressed in the earliest stages of retina and lens development, their expression visualizes the timing and dynamics of the crucial processes that comprise eye formation. In this paper we present a model of eye development based on the expression pattern of these two genes.
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