The Ets family of transcription factors is one of a growing number of master regulators of development. This family was originally defined by the presence of a conserved DNA binding domain, the Ets domain. To date, nearly 30 members of this family have been identified and implicated in a wide range of physiological and pathological processes. Despite the likely importance of Ets-family members, each of their precise roles has not been delineated. Herein, we describe the elucidation of essential functions of a few of these family members in vivo using knockout mouse models. Of the knockouts generated to date, the majority shows important functions in hematopoiesis, ranging from PU.1, a principle regulator of myelo-lymphopoiesis, to Spi-B which regulates the proper function of terminally differentiated cells. Ets1 was shown to be of intermediate importance as a regulator of pan-lymphoid development. Other Ets family members such as Fli1 and TEL1 display distinct and/or overlapping functions in vasculo/angiogenesis, hemostasis and hematopoiesis. The remaining knockouts generated, Ets2 and Er81, show non-hematopoietic defects related to extraembryonic development and neurogenesis, respectively. The pioneering group of knockout models described reveals only the most distinct functions of each of these Ets family members. A better understanding of the roles and hierarchies of Ets family members in cellular differentiation will come with the generation of new null alleles in previously untargeted family members, more mutant alleles in members already disrupted, double knockouts, ES cell differentiation and chimera rescue experiments, and tissue-specific inducible knockouts.
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