Gunther T*, Chen ZF*, Kim J, Priemel M, Rueger JM, Amling M, Moseley JM, Martin TJ, Anderson DJ, and Karsenty G. (2000) Genetic ablation of parathyroid glands by targeted mutation of Glial cells missing2 reveals an auxiliary source of parathyroid hormone secretion. Nature 406(6792): 199-203. (*equal contribution) PMID: 10910362
The parathyroid glands are the only known source of circulating parathyroid hormone (PTH), which initiates an endocrine cascade that regulates serum calcium concentration. Glial cells missing2 (Gcm2), a mouse homologue of Drosophila Gcm, is the only transcription factor whose expression is restricted to the parathyroid glands. Here we show that Gcm2-deficient mice lack parathyroid glands and exhibit a biological hypoparathyroidism, identifying Gcm2 as a master regulatory gene of parathyroid gland development. Unlike PTH receptor-deficient mice, however, Gcm2-deficient mice are viable and fertile, and have only a mildly abnormal bone phenotype. Despite their lack of parathyroid glands, Gcm2-deficient mice have PTH serum levels identical to those of wild-type mice, as do parathyroidectomized wild-type animals. Expression and ablation studies identified the thymus, where Gcm1, another Gcm homologue, is expressed, as the additional, downregulatable source of PTH. Thus, Gcm2 deletion uncovers an auxiliary mechanism for the regulation of calcium homeostasis in the absence of parathyroid glands. We propose that this backup mechanism may be a general feature of endocrine regulation.