The family of paired box (Pax) genes encodes the transcription factors that have been emphasized for the particular importance to embryonic development of the CNS, with the evidence obtained from various animal models. Human embryos have rarely been available for the detection of the expression of Pax family members. In this study 32 human embryos of Carnegie (CS) stages 10-20 were investigated to find the differences in the expression of Pax6 and Pax7 proteins in different regions of the neural tube and the caudal spinal cord. The expression of Pax6 and Pax7, as determined by immunohistochemistry, showed a tendency to increase in the later stages of the development both in the spinal cord and the brain. Significantly weaker expression of Pax6 and Pax7 was observed at CS 10 as compared to the later stages. At CS 10-12 weak expression of Pax6 was noticed in both dorsal and ventral parts of the developing spinal cord, while the expression of Pax7 was restricted to the cells in the roof plate and the dorsal part of the spinal cord. At CS 14-20 in the developing spinal cord Pax6 and Pax7 were detected mostly in the neuroepithelial cells of the ventricular layer, while only weak expression characterized the mantle and the marginal layers. At the same stages in the developing brain Pax6 and Pax7 were expressed in the different regions of the forebrain, the midbrain and the hindbrain suggesting for their involvement in the differentiation of neurons in specific parts of the developing brain.
KEY WORDS: Human embryos; Pax6 and Pax7; Developing spinal cord and brain.