The phylogenetically conserved nuclear factor I (NFI) family of transcription/replication proteins is essential both for adenoviral DNA replication and for the transcription of many cellular genes. We showed previously that the four murine NFI genes (Nfia, Nfib, Nfic, and Nfix) are expressed in unique but overlapping patterns during mouse development and in adult tissues. Here we show that disruption of the Nfia gene causes perinatal lethality, with >95% of homozygous Nfia−/− animals dying within 2 weeks after birth. Newborn Nfia−/− animals lack a corpus callosum and show ventricular dilation indicating early hydrocephalus. Rare surviving homozygous Nfia−/− mice lack a corpus callosum, show severe communicating hydrocephalus, a full-axial tremor indicative of neurological defects, male-sterility, low female fertility, but near normal life spans. These findings indicate that while the Nfia gene appears nonessential for cell viability and DNA replication in embryonic stem cells and fibroblasts, loss of Nfia function causes severe developmental defects. This finding of an NFI gene required for a developmental process suggests that the four NFI genes may have distinct roles in vertebrate development
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