The developmental abnormalities associated with disruption of signaling by retinoic acid (RA), the biologically active form of vitamin A, have been known for decades from studies in animal models and humans. These include defects in the respiratory system, such as lung hypoplasia and agenesis. However, the molecular events controlled by RA that lead to formation of the lung primordium from the primitive foregut remain unclear. Here, we present evidence that endogenous RA acts as a major regulatory signal integrating Wnt and Tgfβ pathways in the control of Fgf10 expression during induction of the mouse primordial lung. We demonstrated that activation of Wnt signaling required for lung formation was dependent on local repression of its antagonist, Dickkopf homolog 1 (Dkk1), by endogenous RA. Moreover, we showed that simultaneously activating Wnt and repressing Tgfβ allowed induction of both lung buds in RA-deficient foreguts. The data in this study suggest that disruption of Wnt/Tgfβ/Fgf10 interactions represents the molecular basis for the classically reported failure to form lung buds in vitamin A deficiency.
Felicia Chen, Yuxia Cao, Jun Qian, Fengzhi Shao, Karen Niederreither, Wellington V. Cardoso
The molecular mechanisms that govern bone and joint formation are complex, involving an integrated network of signaling pathways and gene regulators. We investigated the role of Hox genes, which are known to specify individual segments of the skeleton, in the formation of autopod limb bones (i.e., the hands and feet) using the mouse mutant synpolydactyly homolog (spdh), which encodes a polyalanine expansion in Hoxd13. We found that no cortical bone was formed in the autopod in spdh/spdh mice; instead, these bones underwent trabecular ossification after birth. Spdh/spdh metacarpals acquired an ovoid shape and developed ectopic joints, indicating a loss of long bone characteristics and thus a transformation of metacarpals into carpal bones. The perichondrium of spdh/spdh mice showed abnormal morphology and decreased expression of Runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), which was identified as a direct Hoxd13 transcriptional target. Hoxd11–/–Hoxd12–/–Hoxd13–/– triple-knockout mice and Hoxd13–/–Hoxa13+/– mice exhibited similar but less severe defects, suggesting that these Hox genes have similar and complementary functions and that the spdh allele acts as a dominant negative. This effect was shown to be due to sequestration of other polyalanine-containing transcription factors by the mutant Hoxd13 in the cytoplasm, leading to their degradation. These data indicate that Hox genes not only regulate patterning but also directly influence bone formation and the ossification pattern of bones, in part via Runx2.
Pablo Villavicencio-Lorini, Pia Kuss, Julia Friedrich, Julia Haupt, Muhammed Farooq, Seval Türkmen, Denis Duboule, Jochen Hecht, Stefan Mundlos
Cleft palate is a common congenital disorder that affects up to 1 in 2,500 live human births and results in considerable morbidity to affected individuals and their families. The etiology of cleft palate is complex, with both genetic and environmental factors implicated. Mutations in the transcription factor–encoding genes p63 and interferon regulatory factor 6 (IRF6) have individually been identified as causes of cleft palate; however, a relationship between the key transcription factors p63 and IRF6 has not been determined. Here, we used both mouse models and human primary keratinocytes from patients with cleft palate to demonstrate that IRF6 and p63 interact epistatically during development of the secondary palate. Mice simultaneously carrying a heterozygous deletion of p63 and the Irf6 knockin mutation R84C, which causes cleft palate in humans, displayed ectodermal abnormalities that led to cleft palate. Furthermore, we showed that p63 transactivated IRF6 by binding to an upstream enhancer element; genetic variation within this enhancer element is associated with increased susceptibility to cleft lip. Our findings therefore identify p63 as a key regulatory molecule during palate development and provide a mechanism for the cooperative role of p63 and IRF6 in orofacial development in mice and humans.
Helen A. Thomason, Huiqing Zhou, Evelyn N. Kouwenhoven, Gian-Paolo Dotto, Gaia Restivo, Bach-Cuc Nguyen, Hayley Little, Michael J. Dixon, Hans van Bokhoven, Jill Dixon
Polyhydramnios, megalencephaly, and symptomatic epilepsy syndrome (PMSE) is a rare human autosomal-recessive disorder characterized by abnormal brain development, cognitive disability, and intractable epilepsy. It is caused by homozygous deletions of STE20-related kinase adaptor α (STRADA). The underlying pathogenic mechanisms of PMSE and the role of STRADA in cortical development remain unknown. Here, we found that a human PMSE brain exhibits cytomegaly, neuronal heterotopia, and aberrant activation of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling. STRADα normally binds and exports the protein kinase LKB1 out of the nucleus, leading to suppression of the mTORC1 pathway. We found that neurons in human PMSE cortex exhibited abnormal nuclear localization of LKB1. To investigate this further, we modeled PMSE in mouse neural progenitor cells (mNPCs) in vitro and in developing mouse cortex in vivo by knocking down STRADα expression. STRADα-deficient mNPCs were cytomegalic and showed aberrant rapamycin-dependent activation of mTORC1 in association with abnormal nuclear localization of LKB1. Consistent with the observations in human PMSE brain, knockdown of STRADα in vivo resulted in cortical malformation, enhanced mTORC1 activation, and abnormal nuclear localization of LKB1. Thus, we suggest that the aberrant nuclear accumulation of LKB1 caused by STRADα deficiency contributes to hyperactivation of mTORC1 signaling and disruption of neuronal lamination during corticogenesis, and thereby the neurological features associated with PMSE.
Ksenia A. Orlova, Whitney E. Parker, Gregory G. Heuer, Victoria Tsai, Jason Yoon, Marianna Baybis, Robert S. Fenning, Kevin Strauss, Peter B. Crino
The lymphatic system plays a key role in tissue fluid homeostasis. Lymphatic dysfunction contributes to the pathogenesis of many human diseases, including lymphedema and tumor metastasis. However, the mechanisms regulating lymphangiogenesis remain largely unknown. Here, we show that COUP-TFII (also known as Nr2f2), an orphan member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, mediates both developmental and pathological lymphangiogenesis in mice. Conditional ablation of COUP-TFII at an early embryonic stage resulted in failed formation of pre-lymphatic ECs (pre-LECs) and lymphatic vessels. COUP-TFII deficiency at a late developmental stage resulted in loss of LEC identity, gain of blood EC fate, and impaired lymphatic vessel sprouting. siRNA-mediated downregulation of COUP-TFII in cultured primary human LECs demonstrated that the maintenance of lymphatic identity and VEGF-C–induced lymphangiogenic activity, including cell proliferation and migration, are COUP-TFII–dependent and cell-autonomous processes. COUP-TFII enhanced the pro-lymphangiogenic actions of VEGF-C, at least in part by directly stimulating expression of neuropilin-2, a coreceptor for VEGF-C. In addition, COUP-TFII inactivation in a mammary gland mouse tumor model resulted in inhibition of tumor lymphangiogenesis, suggesting that COUP-TFII also regulates neo-lymphangiogenesis in the adult. Thus, COUP-TFII is a critical factor that controls lymphangiogenesis in embryonic development and tumorigenesis in adults.
Fu-Jung Lin, Xinpu Chen, Jun Qin, Young-Kwon Hong, Ming-Jer Tsai, Sophia Y. Tsai
The receptor tyrosine kinase ret protooncogene (RET) is implicated in the pathogenesis of several diseases and in several developmental defects, particularly those in neural crest–derived structures and the genitourinary system. In order to further elucidate RET-mediated mechanisms that contribute to these diseases and decipher the basis for specificity in the pleiotropic effects of RET, we characterized development of the enteric and autonomic nervous systems in mice expressing RET9 or RET51 isoforms harboring mutations in tyrosine residues that act as docking sites for the adaptors Plcγ, Src, Shc, and Grb2. Using this approach, we found that development of the genitourinary system and the enteric and autonomic nervous systems is dependent on distinct RET-stimulated signaling pathways. Thus, mutation of RET51 at Y1062, a docking site for multiple adaptor proteins including Shc, caused distal colon aganglionosis reminiscent of Hirschsprung disease (HSCR). On the other hand, this mutation in RET9, which encodes an isoform that lacks the Grb2 docking site present in RET51, produced severe abnormalities in multiple organs. Mutations that abrogate RET-Plcγ binding, previously shown to produce features reminiscent of congenital anomalies of kidneys or urinary tract (CAKUT) syndrome, produced only minor abnormalities in the nervous system. Abrogating RET51-Src binding produced no major defects in these systems. These studies provide insight into the basis of organotypic specificity and redundancy in RET signaling within these unique systems and in diseases such as HSCR and CAKUT.
Sanjay Jain, Amanda Knoten, Masato Hoshi, Hongtao Wang, Bhupinder Vohra, Robert O. Heuckeroth, Jeffrey Milbrandt
Various acute and chronic inflammatory stimuli increase the number and activity of pulmonary mucus-producing goblet cells, and goblet cell hyperplasia and excess mucus production are central to the pathogenesis of chronic pulmonary diseases. However, little is known about the transcriptional programs that regulate goblet cell differentiation. Here, we show that SAM-pointed domain–containing Ets-like factor (SPDEF) controls a transcriptional program critical for pulmonary goblet cell differentiation in mice. Initial cell-lineage–tracing analysis identified nonciliated secretory epithelial cells, known as Clara cells, as the progenitors of goblet cells induced by pulmonary allergen exposure in vivo. Furthermore, in vivo expression of SPDEF in Clara cells caused rapid and reversible goblet cell differentiation in the absence of cell proliferation. This was associated with enhanced expression of genes regulating goblet cell differentiation and protein glycosylation, including forkhead box A3 (Foxa3), anterior gradient 2 (Agr2), and glucosaminyl (N-acetyl) transferase 3, mucin type (Gcnt3). Consistent with these findings, levels of SPDEF and FOXA3 were increased in mouse goblet cells after sensitization with pulmonary allergen, and the proteins were colocalized in goblet cells lining the airways of patients with chronic lung diseases. Deletion of the mouse Spdef gene resulted in the absence of goblet cells in tracheal/laryngeal submucosal glands and in the conducting airway epithelium after pulmonary allergen exposure in vivo. These data show that SPDEF plays a critical role in regulating a transcriptional network mediating the goblet cell differentiation and mucus hyperproduction associated with chronic pulmonary disorders.
Gang Chen, Thomas R. Korfhagen, Yan Xu, Joseph Kitzmiller, Susan E. Wert, Yutaka Maeda, Alexander Gregorieff, Hans Clevers, Jeffrey A. Whitsett
Neural crest cells (NCCs) participate in the remodeling of the cardiac outflow tract and pharyngeal arch arteries during cardiovascular development. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) mediates signal transduction by integrin and growth factor receptors, each of which is important for normal cardiovascular development. To investigate the role of FAK in NCC morphogenesis, we deleted it in murine NCCs using Wnt1cre, yielding craniofacial and cardiovascular malformations resembling those observed in individuals with DiGeorge syndrome. In these mice, we observed normal cardiac NCC migration but reduced differentiation into smooth muscle within the aortic arch arteries and impaired cardiac outflow tract rotation, which resulted in a dextroposed aortic root. Moreover, within the conotruncal cushions, Fak-deficient NCCs formed a less organized mesenchyme, with reduced expression of perlecan and semaphorin 3C, and exhibited disorganized F-actin stress fibers within the aorticopulmonary septum. Additionally, absence of Fak resulted in reduced in vivo phosphorylation of Crkl and Erk1/2, components of a signaling pathway essential for NCC development. Consistent with this, both TGF-β and FGF induced FAK and Crkl phosphorylation in control but not Fak-deficient NCCs in vitro. Our results indicate that FAK plays an essential role in cardiac outflow tract development by promoting the activation of molecules such as Crkl and Erk1/2.
Ainara Vallejo-Illarramendi, Keling Zang, Louis F. Reichardt
Notch signaling is vital for proper cardiovascular development and function in both humans and animal models. Indeed, mutations in either JAGGED or NOTCH cause congenital heart disease in humans and NOTCH mutations are associated with adult valvular disease. Notch typically functions to mediate developmental interactions between adjacent tissues. Here we show that either absence of the Notch ligand Jagged1 or inhibition of Notch signaling in second heart field tissues results in murine aortic arch artery and cardiac anomalies. In mid-gestation, these mutants displayed decreased Fgf8 and Bmp4 expression. Notch inhibition within the second heart field affected the development of neighboring tissues. For example, faulty migration of cardiac neural crest cells and defective endothelial-mesenchymal transition within the outflow tract endocardial cushions were observed. Furthermore, exogenous Fgf8 was sufficient to rescue the defect in endothelial-mesenchymal transition in explant assays of endocardial cushions following Notch inhibition within second heart field derivatives. These data support a model that relates second heart field, neural crest, and endocardial cushion development and suggests that perturbed Notch-Jagged signaling within second heart field progenitors accounts for some forms of congenital and adult cardiac disease.
Frances A. High, Rajan Jain, Jason Z. Stoller, Nicole B. Antonucci, Min Min Lu, Kathleen M. Loomes, Klaus H. Kaestner, Warren S. Pear, Jonathan A. Epstein
Congenital anomalies affecting the ureter-bladder junction are frequent in newborns and are often associated with other developmental defects. However, the molecular and morphological processes underlying these malformations are still poorly defined. In this study, we identified the leukocyte antigen–related (LAR) family protein tyrosine phosphatase, receptor type, S and F (Ptprs and Ptprf [also known as Lar], respectively), as crucially important for distal ureter maturation and craniofacial morphogenesis in the mouse. Embryos lacking both Ptprs and Ptprf displayed severe urogenital malformations, characterized by hydroureter and ureterocele, and craniofacial defects such as cleft palate, micrognathia, and exencephaly. The detailed analysis of distal ureter maturation, the process by which the ureter is displaced toward its final position in the bladder wall, leads us to propose a revised model of ureter maturation in normal embryos. This process was deficient in embryos lacking Ptprs and Ptprf as a result of a marked reduction in intrinsic programmed cell death, thereby causing urogenital system malformations. In cell culture, Ptprs bound and negatively regulated the phosphorylation and signaling of the Ret receptor tyrosine kinase, whereas Ptprs-induced apoptosis was inhibited by Ret expression. Together, these results suggest that ureter positioning is controlled by the opposing actions of Ret and LAR family phosphatases regulating apoptosis-mediated tissue morphogenesis.
Noriko Uetani, Kristen Bertozzi, Melanie J. Chagnon, Wiljan Hendriks, Michel L. Tremblay, Maxime Bouchard
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