Based on extensive preclinical data, glycogen synthase kinase–3 (GSK-3) has been proposed to be a viable drug target for a wide variety of disease states, ranging from diabetes to bipolar disorder. Since these new drugs, which will be more powerful GSK-3 inhibitors than lithium, may potentially be given to women of childbearing potential, and since it has controversially been suggested that lithium therapy might be linked to congenital cardiac defects, we asked whether GSK-3 family members are required for normal heart development in mice. We report that terminal cardiomyocyte differentiation was substantially blunted in Gsk3b–/– embryoid bodies. While GSK-3α–deficient mice were born without a cardiac phenotype, no live-born Gsk3b–/– pups were recovered. The Gsk3b–/– embryos had a double outlet RV, ventricular septal defects, and hypertrophic myopathy, with near obliteration of the ventricular cavities. The hypertrophic myopathy was caused by cardiomyocyte hyperproliferation without hypertrophy and was associated with increased expression and nuclear localization of three regulators of proliferation — GATA4, cyclin D1, and c-Myc. These studies, which we believe are the first in mammals to examine the role of GSK-3α and GSK-3β in the heart using loss-of-function approaches, implicate GSK-3β as a central regulator of embryonic cardiomyocyte proliferation and differentiation, as well as of outflow tract development. Although controversy over the teratogenic effects of lithium remains, our studies suggest that caution should be exercised in the use of newer, more potent drugs targeting GSK-3 in women of childbearing age.
Risto Kerkela, Lisa Kockeritz, Katrina MacAulay, Jibin Zhou, Bradley W. Doble, Cara Beahm, Sarah Greytak, Kathleen Woulfe, Chinmay M. Trivedi, James R. Woodgett, Jonathan A. Epstein, Thomas Force, Gordon S. Huggins
Joubert syndrome is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by congenital malformation of the cerebellum and brainstem, with abnormal decussation in the brain. Mutations in the Abelson helper integration site 1 gene, which encodes the protein AHI1, have been shown to cause Joubert syndrome. In this study, we found that mouse Ahi1 formed a stable complex with huntingtin-associated protein 1 (Hap1), which is critical for neonatal development and involved in intracellular trafficking. Hap1-knockout mice showed significantly reduced Ahi1 levels, defective cerebellar development, and abnormal axonal decussation. Suppression of Ahi1 also decreased the level of Hap1; and truncated Ahi1, which corresponds to the mutations in Joubert syndrome, inhibited neurite outgrowth in neuronal culture. Reducing Hap1 expression suppressed the level and internalization of TrkB, a neurotrophic factor receptor that mediates neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation, which led to decreased TrkB signaling. These findings provide insight into the pathogenesis of Joubert syndrome and demonstrate the critical role of the Ahi1-Hap1 complex in early brain development.
Guoqing Sheng, Xingshun Xu, Yung-Feng Lin, Chuan-En Wang, Juan Rong, Dongmei Cheng, Junmin Peng, Xiaoyan Jiang, Shi-Hua Li, Xiao-Jiang Li
Transcription factors regulate tissue patterning and cell fate determination during development; however, expression of early regulators frequently abates upon differentiation, suggesting that they may also play a role in maintaining an undifferentiated phenotype. The transcription factor paired box 3 (Pax3) is expressed by multipotent neural crest precursors and is implicated in neural crest disorders in humans such as Waardenburg syndrome. Pax3 is required for development of multiple neural crest lineages and for activation of lineage-specific programs, yet expression is generally extinguished once neural crest cells migrate from the dorsal neural tube and differentiate. Using a murine Cre-inducible system, we asked whether persistent Pax3 expression in neural crest derivatives would affect development or patterning. We found that persistent expression of Pax3 in cranial neural crest cells resulted in cleft palate, ocular defects, malformation of the sphenoid bone, and perinatal lethality. Furthermore, we demonstrated that Pax3 directly regulates expression of Sostdc1, a soluble inhibitor of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling. Persistent Pax3 expression renders the cranial crest resistant to BMP-induced osteogenesis. Thus, one mechanism by which Pax3 maintains the undifferentiated state of neural crest mesenchyme may be to block responsiveness to differentiation signals from the environment. These studies provide in vivo evidence for the importance of Pax3 downregulation during differentiation of multipotent neural crest precursors and cranial development.
Meilin Wu, Jun Li, Kurt A. Engleka, Bo Zhou, Min Min Lu, Joshua B. Plotkin, Jonathan A. Epstein
Becoming a phenotypic male is ultimately determined by androgen-induced masculinization. Disorders of fetal masculinization, resulting in hypospadias or cryptorchidism, are common, but their cause remains unclear. Together with the adult-onset disorders low sperm count and testicular cancer, they can constitute a testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS). Although masculinization is well studied, no unifying concept explains normal male reproductive development and its abnormalities, including TDS. We exposed rat fetuses to either anti-androgens or androgens and showed that masculinization of all reproductive tract tissues was programmed by androgen action during a common fetal programming window. This preceded morphological differentiation, when androgen action was, surprisingly, unnecessary. Only within the programming window did blocking androgen action induce hypospadias and cryptorchidism and altered penile length in male rats, all of which correlated with anogenital distance (AGD). Androgen-driven masculinization of females was also confined to the same programming window. This work has identified in rats a common programming window in which androgen action is essential for normal reproductive tract masculinization and has highlighted that measuring AGD in neonatal humans could provide a noninvasive method to predict neonatal and adult reproductive disorders. Based on the timings in rats, we believe the programming window in humans is likely to be 8–14 weeks of gestation.
Michelle Welsh, Philippa T.K. Saunders, Mark Fisken, Hayley M. Scott, Gary R. Hutchison, Lee B. Smith, Richard M. Sharpe
In humans, hereditary inactivation of either p22phox or gp91phox leads to chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), a severe immune disorder characterized by the inability of phagocytes to produce bacteria-destroying ROS. Heterodimers of p22phox and gp91phox proteins constitute the superoxide-producing cytochrome core of the phagocyte NADPH oxidase. In this study, we identified the nmf333 mouse strain as what we believe to be the first animal model of p22phox deficiency. Characterization of nmf333 mice revealed that deletion of p22phox inactivated not only the phagocyte NADPH oxidase, but also a second cytochrome in the inner ear epithelium. As a consequence, mice of the nmf333 strain exhibit a compound phenotype consisting of both a CGD-like immune defect and a balance disorder caused by the aberrant development of gravity-sensing organs. Thus, in addition to identifying a model of p22phox-dependent immune deficiency, our study indicates that a clinically identifiable patient population with an otherwise cryptic loss of gravity-sensor function may exist. Thus, p22phox represents a shared and essential component of at least 2 superoxide-producing cytochromes with entirely different biological functions. The site of p22phox expression in the inner ear leads us to propose what we believe to be a novel mechanism for the control of vestibular organogenesis.
Yoko Nakano, Chantal M. Longo-Guess, David E. Bergstrom, William M. Nauseef, Sherri M. Jones, Botond Bánfi
Myocardin (Myocd) is a potent transcriptional coactivator that has been implicated in cardiovascular development and adaptation of the cardiovascular system to hemodynamic stress. To determine the function of myocardin in the developing cardiovascular system, MyocdF/F/Wnt1-Cre+ and MyocdF/F/Pax3-Cre+ mice were generated in which the myocardin gene was selectively ablated in neural crest–derived SMCs populating the cardiac outflow tract and great arteries. Both MyocdF/F/Wnt1-Cre+ and MyocdF/F/Pax3-Cre+ mutant mice survived to birth, but died prior to postnatal day 3 from patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Neural crest–derived SMCs populating the ductus arteriosus (DA) and great arteries exhibited a cell autonomous block in expression of myocardin-regulated genes encoding SMC-restricted contractile proteins. Moreover, Myocd-deficient vascular SMCs populating the DA exhibited ultrastructural features generally associated with the SMC synthetic, rather than contractile, phenotype. Consistent with these findings, ablation of the Myocd gene in primary aortic SMCs harvested from Myocd conditional mutant mice caused a dramatic decrease in SMC contractile protein expression. Taken together, these data demonstrate that myocardin regulates expression of genes required for the contractile phenotype in neural crest–derived SMCs and provide new insights into the molecular and genetic programs that may underlie PDA.
Jianhe Huang, Lan Cheng, Jian Li, Mary Chen, Deying Zhou, Min Min Lu, Aaron Proweller, Jonathan A. Epstein, Michael S. Parmacek
Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder associated with ciliary defects and situs inversus totalis, the complete mirror image reversal of internal organ situs (positioning). A variable incidence of heterotaxy, or irregular organ situs, also has been reported in PCD patients, but it is not known whether this is elicited by the PCD-causing genetic lesion. We studied a mouse model of PCD with a recessive mutation in Dnahc5, a dynein gene commonly mutated in PCD. Analysis of homozygous mutant embryos from 18 litters yielded 25% with normal organ situs, 35% with situs inversus totalis, and 40% with heterotaxy. Embryos with heterotaxy had complex structural heart defects that included discordant atrioventricular and ventricular outflow situs and atrial/pulmonary isomerisms. Variable combinations of a distinct set of cardiovascular anomalies were observed, including superior-inferior ventricles, great artery alignment defects, and interrupted inferior vena cava with azygos continuation. The surprisingly high incidence of heterotaxy led us to evaluate the diagnosis of PCD. PCD was confirmed by EM, which revealed missing outer dynein arms in the respiratory cilia. Ciliary dyskinesia was observed by videomicroscopy. These findings show that Dnahc5 is required for the specification of left-right asymmetry and suggest that the PCD-causing Dnahc5 mutation may also be associated with heterotaxy.
Serena Y. Tan, Julie Rosenthal, Xiao-Qing Zhao, Richard J. Francis, Bishwanath Chatterjee, Steven L. Sabol, Kaari L. Linask, Luciann Bracero, Patricia S. Connelly, Mathew P. Daniels, Qing Yu, Heymut Omran, Linda Leatherbury, Cecilia W. Lo
The discovery of fetal mRNA transcripts in the maternal circulation holds great promise for noninvasive prenatal diagnosis. To identify potential fetal biomarkers, we studied whole blood and plasma gene transcripts that were common to 9 term pregnant women and their newborns but absent or reduced in the mothers postpartum. RNA was isolated from peripheral or umbilical blood and hybridized to gene expression arrays. Gene expression, paired Student’s t test, and pathway analyses were performed. In whole blood, 157 gene transcripts met statistical significance. These fetal biomarkers included 27 developmental genes, 5 sensory perception genes, and 22 genes involved in neonatal physiology. Transcripts were predominantly expressed or restricted to the fetus, the embryo, or the neonate. Real-time RT-PCR amplification confirmed the presence of specific gene transcripts; SNP analysis demonstrated the presence of 3 fetal transcripts in maternal antepartum blood. Comparison of whole blood and plasma samples from the same pregnant woman suggested that placental genes are more easily detected in plasma. We conclude that fetal and placental mRNA circulates in the blood of pregnant women. Transcriptional analysis of maternal whole blood identifies a unique set of biologically diverse fetal genes and has a multitude of clinical applications.
Jill L. Maron, Kirby L. Johnson, Donna Slonim, Chao-Qiang Lai, Marco Ramoni, Gil Alterovitz, Zina Jarrah, Zinger Yang, Diana W. Bianchi
In humans, loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding Wnt1 inducible signaling pathway protein 3 (WISP3) cause the autosomal-recessive skeletal disorder progressive pseudorheumatoid dysplasia (PPD). However, in mice there is no apparent phenotype caused by Wisp3 deficiency or overexpression. Consequently, the in vivo activities of Wisp3 have remained elusive. We cloned the zebrafish ortholog of Wisp3 and investigated its biologic activity in vivo using gain-of-function and loss-of-function approaches. Overexpression of zebrafish Wisp3 protein inhibited bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Wnt signaling in developing zebrafish. Conditioned medium–containing zebrafish and human Wisp3 also inhibited BMP and Wnt signaling in mammalian cells by binding to BMP ligand and to the Wnt coreceptors low-density lipoprotein receptor–related protein 6 (LRP6) and Frizzled, respectively. Wisp3 proteins containing disease-causing amino acid substitutions found in patients with PPD had reduced activity in these assays. Morpholino-mediated inhibition of zebrafish Wisp3 protein expression in developing zebrafish affected pharyngeal cartilage size and shape. These data provide a biologic assay for Wisp3, reveal a role for Wisp3 during zebrafish cartilage development, and suggest that dysregulation of BMP and/or Wnt signaling contributes to cartilage failure in humans with PPD.
Yukio Nakamura, Gilbert Weidinger, Jennifer O. Liang, Allisan Aquilina-Beck, Keiko Tamai, Randall T. Moon, Matthew L. Warman
Forkhead box O (Foxo) transcription factors govern metabolism and cellular differentiation. Unlike Foxo-dependent metabolic pathways and target genes, the mechanisms by which these proteins regulate differentiation have not been explored. Activation of Notch signaling mimics the effects of Foxo gain of function on cellular differentiation. Using muscle differentiation as a model system, we show that Foxo physically and functionally interacts with Notch by promoting corepressor clearance from the Notch effector Csl, leading to activation of Notch target genes. Inhibition of myoblast differentiation by constitutively active Foxo1 is partly rescued by inhibition of Notch signaling while Foxo1 loss of function precludes Notch inhibition of myogenesis and increases myogenic determination gene (MyoD) expression. Accordingly, conditional Foxo1 ablation in skeletal muscle results in increased formation of MyoD-containing (fast-twitch) muscle fibers and altered fiber type distribution at the expense of myogenin-containing (slow-twitch) fibers. Notch/Foxo1 cooperation may integrate environmental cues through Notch with metabolic cues through Foxo1 to regulate progenitor cell maintenance and differentiation.
Tadahiro Kitamura, Yukari Ido Kitamura, Yasuhiro Funahashi, Carrie J. Shawber, Diego H. Castrillon, Ramya Kollipara, Ronald A. DePinho, Jan Kitajewski, Domenico Accili
Holoprosencephaly (HPE) is a clinically heterogeneous developmental anomaly affecting the CNS and face, in which the embryonic forebrain fails to divide into distinct halves. Numerous genetic loci and environmental factors are implicated in HPE, but mutation in the sonic hedgehog (Shh) gene is an established cause in both humans and mice. As growth arrest–specific 1 (Gas1) encodes a membrane glycoprotein previously identified as a Shh antagonist in the somite, we analyzed the craniofacial phenotype of mice harboring a targeted Gas1 deletion. Gas1–/– mice exhibited microform HPE, including midfacial hypoplasia, premaxillary incisor fusion, and cleft palate, in addition to severe ear defects; however, gross integrity of the forebrain remained intact. These defects were associated with partial loss of Shh signaling in cells at a distance from the source of transcription, suggesting that Gas1 can potentiate hedgehog signaling in the early face. Loss of a single Shh allele in a Gas1–/– background significantly exacerbated the midline craniofacial phenotype, providing genetic evidence that Shh and Gas1 interact. As human GAS1 maps to chromosome 9q21.3–q22, a region previously associated with nonsyndromic cleft palate and congenital deafness, our results establish GAS1 as a potential locus for several human craniofacial malformations.
Maisa Seppala, Michael J. Depew, David C. Martinelli, Chen-Ming Fan, Paul T. Sharpe, Martyn T. Cobourne
Ewing sarcoma gene EWS encodes a putative RNA-binding protein with proposed roles in transcription and splicing, but its physiological role in vivo remains undefined. Here, we have generated Ews-deficient mice and demonstrated that EWS is required for the completion of B cell development and meiosis. Analysis of Ews–/– lymphocytes revealed a cell-autonomous defect in precursor B lymphocyte (pre–B lymphocyte) development. During meiosis, Ews-null spermatocytes were deficient in XY bivalent formation and showed reduced meiotic recombination, resulting in massive apoptosis and complete arrest in gamete maturation. Inactivation of Ews in mouse embryonic fibroblasts resulted in premature cellular senescence, and the mutant animals showed hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation. Finally, we showed that EWS interacts with lamin A/C and that loss of EWS results in a reduced lamin A/C expression. Our findings reveal essential functions for EWS in pre–B cell development and meiosis, with proposed roles in DNA pairing and recombination/repair mechanisms. Furthermore, we demonstrate a novel role of EWS in cellular senescence, possibly through its interaction and modulation of lamin A/C.
Hongjie Li, Wendy Watford, Cuiling Li, Alissa Parmelee, Mark A. Bryant, Chuxia Deng, John O’Shea, Sean Bong Lee
The cardiac outflow tract develops as a result of a complex interplay among several cell types, including cardiac neural crest cells, endothelial cells, and cardiomyocytes. In both humans and mice, mutations in components of the Notch signaling pathway result in congenital heart disease characterized by cardiac outflow tract defects. However, the specific cell types in which Notch functions during cardiovascular development remain to be defined. In addition, in vitro studies have provided conflicting data regarding the ability of Notch to promote or inhibit smooth muscle differentiation, while the physiological role for Notch in smooth muscle formation during development remains unclear. In this study, we generated mice in which Notch signaling was specifically inactivated in derivatives of the neural crest. These mice exhibited cardiovascular anomalies, including aortic arch patterning defects, pulmonary artery stenosis, and ventricular septal defects. We show that Notch plays a critical, cell-autonomous role in the differentiation of cardiac neural crest precursors into smooth muscle cells both in vitro and in vivo, and we identify specific Notch targets in neural crest that are implicated in this process. These results provide a molecular and cellular framework for understanding the role of Notch signaling in the etiology of congenital heart disease.
Frances A. High, Maozhen Zhang, Aaron Proweller, LiLi Tu, Michael S. Parmacek, Warren S. Pear, Jonathan A. Epstein
Insig-1 and Insig-2 are regulatory proteins that restrict the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway by preventing proteolytic activation of SREBPs and by enhancing degradation of HMG-CoA reductase. Here, we created Insig–double-knockout (Insig-DKO) mice that are homozygous for null mutations in Insig-1 and Insig-2. After 18.5 days of development, 96% of Insig-DKO embryos had defects in midline facial development, ranging from cleft palate (52%) to complete cleft face (44%). Middle and inner ear structures were abnormal, but teeth and skeletons were normal. The animals were lethargic and runted; they died within 1 day of birth. The livers and heads of Insig-DKO embryos overproduced sterols, causing a marked buildup of sterol intermediates. Treatment of pregnant mice with the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor lovastatin reduced sterol synthesis in Insig-DKO embryos and reduced the pre-cholesterol intermediates. This treatment ameliorated the clefting syndrome so that 54% of Insig-DKO mice had normal faces, and only 7% had cleft faces. We conclude that buildup of pre-cholesterol sterol intermediates interferes with midline fusion of facial structures in mice. These findings have implications for the pathogenesis of the cleft palate component of Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome and other human malformation syndromes in which mutations in enzymes catalyzing steps in cholesterol biosynthesis produce a buildup of sterol intermediates.
Luke J. Engelking, Bret M. Evers, James A. Richardson, Joseph L. Goldstein, Michael S. Brown, Guosheng Liang
Dynamic and reciprocal epithelial-mesenchymal interactions are critical for the normal morphogenesis and maintenance of epithelia. Epimorphin has been identified as a unique molecule expressed by mesenchymal cells and myofibroblasts and has putative morphogenetic effects in multiple epithelial tissues, including intestine, skin, mammary gland, lung, gallbladder, and liver. To define the in vivo role of epimorphin, we created epimorphin-null mice by targeted inactivation of the epimorphin gene. Male epimorphin–/– mice are sterile due to abnormal testicular development and impaired spermatogenesis. Intestinal growth is increased in epimorphin–/– mice due to augmented crypt cell proliferation and crypt fission during the neonatal (suckling) period, mediated at least in part by changes in bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways. Colonic mucosal injury and colitis induced by dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) are ameliorated in epimorphin–/– mice, probably due to the increased proliferative capacity of the epimorphin–/– colon. These in vivo findings support the notion that epimorphin is a key stromal regulator of epithelial cell proliferation and growth in the intestine. In addition, our studies demonstrate a novel and critical role for epimorphin in regulating testicular development and growth as well as spermatogenesis.
Yuan Wang, Lihua Wang, Hristo Iordanov, Elzbieta A. Swietlicki, Qun Zheng, Shujun Jiang, Yuzhu Tang, Marc S. Levin, Deborah C. Rubin
Ectopic pancreas is a developmental anomaly occasionally found in humans. Hes1, a main effector of Notch signaling, regulates the fate and differentiation of many cell types during development. To gain insights into the role of the Notch pathway in pancreatic fate determination, we combined the use of Hes1-knockout mice and lineage tracing employing the Cre/loxP system to specifically mark pancreatic precursor cells and their progeny in Ptf1a-cre and Rosa26 reporter mice. We show that inactivation of Hes1 induces misexpression of Ptf1a in discrete regions of the primitive stomach and duodenum and throughout the common bile duct. All ectopic Ptf1a-expressing cells were reprogrammed, or transcommitted, to multipotent pancreatic progenitor status and subsequently differentiated into mature pancreatic exocrine, endocrine, and duct cells. This process recapitulated normal pancreatogenesis in terms of morphological and genetic features. Furthermore, analysis of Hes1/Ptf1a double mutants revealed that ectopic Ptf1a-cre lineage–labeled cells adopted the fate of region-appropriate gut epithelium or endocrine cells similarly to Ptf1a-inactivated cells in the native pancreatic buds. Our data demonstrate that the Hes1-mediated Notch pathway is required for region-appropriate specification of pancreas in the developing foregut endoderm through regulation of Ptf1a expression, providing novel insight into the pathogenesis of ectopic pancreas development in a mouse model.
Akihisa Fukuda, Yoshiya Kawaguchi, Kenichiro Furuyama, Sota Kodama, Masashi Horiguchi, Takeshi Kuhara, Masayuki Koizumi, Daniel F. Boyer, Koji Fujimoto, Ryuichiro Doi, Ryoichiro Kageyama, Christopher V.E. Wright, Tsutomu Chiba
Ikaros transcription factors are essential regulators of lymphopoiesis and the development of the immune system. We now show that Ikaros is expressed in hormone-producing pituitary corticomelanotroph cells, where it binds the proopiomelanocortin promoter and regulates endogenous gene expression. Loss of Ikaros in vivo results in contraction of the pituitary corticomelanotroph population, reduced circulating adrenocorticotrophic hormone levels, and adrenal glucocorticoid insufficiency. While hemopoietic reconstitution failed to correct this hormonal deficit, the phenotype of reduced body weight and diminished survival was rescued by systemic glucocorticoid-hormone administration. Given the established immunomodulatory properties of glucocorticoid hormones, these findings reveal a novel role for Ikaros in orchestrating immune-endocrine development and function.
Shereen Ezzat, Rene Mader, ShunJiang Yu, Terry Ning, Philippe Poussier, Sylvia L. Asa
B lymphocyte differentiation is coordinated with the induction of high-level Ig secretion and expansion of the secretory pathway. Upon accumulation of unfolded proteins in the lumen of the ER, cells activate an intracellular signaling pathway termed the unfolded protein response (UPR). Two major proximal sensors of the UPR are inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α), an ER transmembrane protein kinase/endoribonuclease, and ER-resident eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) kinase (PERK). To elucidate whether the UPR plays an important role in lymphopoiesis, we carried out reconstitution of recombinase-activating gene 2–deficient (rag2–/–) mice with hematopoietic cells defective in either IRE1α- or PERK-mediated signaling. IRE1α-deficient (ire1α–/–) HSCs can proliferate and give rise to pro–B cells that home to bone marrow. However, IRE1α, but not its catalytic activities, is required for Ig gene rearrangement and production of B cell receptors (BCRs). Analysis of rag2–/– mice transplanted with IRE1α trans-dominant-negative bone marrow cells demonstrated an additional requirement for IRE1α in B lymphopoiesis: both the IRE1α kinase and RNase catalytic activities are required to splice the mRNA encoding X-box–binding protein 1 (XBP1) for terminal differentiation of mature B cells into antibody-secreting plasma cells. Furthermore, UPR-mediated translational control through eIF2α phosphorylation is not required for B lymphocyte maturation and/or plasma cell differentiation. These results suggest specific requirements of the IRE1α-mediated UPR subpathway in the early and late stages of B lymphopoiesis.
Kezhong Zhang, Hetty N. Wong, Benbo Song, Corey N. Miller, Donalyn Scheuner, Randal J. Kaufman
Parasympathetic slowing of the heart rate is predominantly mediated by acetylcholine-dependent activation of the G protein–gated potassium (K+) channel (IK,ACh). This channel is composed of 2 inward-rectifier K+ (Kir) channel subunits, Kir3.1 and Kir3.4, that display distinct functional properties. Here we show that subunit composition of IK,ACh changes during embryonic development. At early stages, IK,ACh is primarily formed by Kir3.1, while in late embryonic and adult cells, Kir3.4 is the predominant subunit. This change in subunit composition results in reduced rectification of IK,ACh, allowing for marked K+ currents over the whole physiological voltage range. As a consequence, IK,ACh is able to generate the membrane hyperpolarization that underlies the strong negative chronotropy occurring in late- but not early-stage atrial cardiomyocytes upon application of muscarinic agonists. Both strong negative chronotropy and membrane hyperpolarization can be induced in early-stage cardiomyocytes by viral overexpression of the mildly rectifying Kir3.4 subunit. Thus, a switch in subunit composition is used to adopt IK,ACh to its functional role in adult cardiomyocytes.
Bernd K. Fleischmann, Yaqi Duan, Yun Fan, Torsten Schoneberg, Andreas Ehlich, Nibedita Lenka, Serge Viatchenko-Karpinski, Lutz Pott, Juergen Hescheler, Bernd Fakler
One of the most perplexing questions in clinical genetics is why patients with identical gene mutations oftentimes exhibit radically different clinical features. This inconsistency between genotype and phenotype is illustrated in the malformation spectrum of holoprosencephaly (HPE). Family members carrying identical mutations in sonic hedgehog (SHH) can exhibit a variety of facial features ranging from cyclopia to subtle midline asymmetries. Such intrafamilial variability may arise from environmental factors acting in conjunction with gene mutations that collectively reduce SHH activity below a critical threshold. We undertook a series of experiments to test the hypothesis that modifying the activity of the SHH signaling pathway at discrete periods of embryonic development could account for the phenotypic spectrum of HPE. Exposing avian embryos to cyclopamine during critical periods of craniofacial development recreated a continuum of HPE-related defects. The craniofacial malformations included hypotelorism, midfacial hypoplasia, and facial clefting and were not the result of excessive crest cell apoptosis. Rather, they resulted from molecular reprogramming of an organizing center whose activity controls outgrowth and patterning of the mid and upper face. Collectively, these data reveal one mechanism by which the variable expressivity of a disorder such as HPE can be produced through temporal disruption of a single molecular pathway.
Dwight Cordero, Ralph Marcucio, Diane Hu, William Gaffield, Minal Tapadia, Jill A. Helms
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