The specification of left-right asymmetry of the visceral organs is precisely regulated. The earliest breakage of left-right symmetry occurs as the result of leftward flow generated by asymmetric beating of nodal cilia, which eventually induces asymmetric Nodal/Lefty/Pitx2 expression on the left side of the lateral plate mesoderm. PIERCE1 has been identified as a p53 target gene involved in the DNA damage response. In this study, we found that Pierce1-null mice exhibit severe laterality defects, including situs inversus totalis and heterotaxy with randomized situs and left and right isomerisms. The spectrum of laterality defects was closely correlated with randomized expression of Nodal and its downstream genes, Lefty1/2 and Pitx2. The phenotype of Pierce1-null mice most closely resembled that of mutant mice with impaired ciliogenesis and/or ciliary motility of the node. We also found the loss of asymmetric expression of Cerl2, the earliest flow-responding gene in the node of Pierce1-null embryos. The results suggest that Pierce1-null embryos have defects in generating a symmetry breaking signal including leftward nodal flow. This is the first report implicating a role for PIERCE1 in the symmetry-breaking step of left-right asymmetry specification.
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