Cardiac valve formation is crucial for embryonic and adult heart function. Valve malformations constitute the most common congenital cardiac defect, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms regulating valve formation and homeostasis. Here, we show that endocardial Notch1 and myocardial Bmp2 signal integration establish a valve-forming field between 2 chamber developmental domains. Patterning occurs through the activation of endocardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) exclusively in prospective valve territories. Mice with constitutive endocardial Notch1 activity ectopically express Hey1 and Heyl. They also display an activated mesenchymal gene program in ventricles and a partial (noninvasive) EMT in vitro that becomes invasive upon BMP2 treatment. Snail1, TGF-β2, or Notch1 inhibition reduces BMP2-induced ventricular transformation and invasion, whereas BMP2 treatment inhibits endothelial Gsk3β, stabilizing Snail1 and promoting invasiveness. Integration of Notch and Bmp2 signals is consistent with Notch1 signaling being attenuated after myocardial Bmp2 deletion. Notch1 activation in myocardium extends Hey1 expression to nonchamber myocardium, represses Bmp2, and impairs EMT. In contrast, Notch deletion abrogates endocardial Hey gene transcription and extends Bmp2 expression to the ventricular endocardium. This embryonic Notch1-Bmp2-Snail1 relationship may be relevant in adult valve disease, in which decreased NOTCH signaling causes valve mesenchyme cell formation, fibrosis, and calcification.
Luis Luna-Zurita, Belén Prados, Joaquim Grego-Bessa, Guillermo Luxán, Gonzalo del Monte, Alberto Benguría, Ralf H. Adams, José María Pérez-Pomares, José Luis de la Pompa
Retinal degeneration causes vision impairment and blindness in humans. If one day we are to harness the potential of stem cell–based cell replacement therapies to treat these conditions, it is imperative that we better understand normal retina development. Currently, the genes and mechanisms that regulate the specification of the neuroretina during vertebrate eye development remain unknown. Here, we identify sine oculis–related homeobox 3 (Six3) as a crucial player in this process in mice. In Six3 conditional–mutant mouse embryos, specification of the neuroretina was abrogated, but that of the retinal pigmented epithelium was normal. Conditional deletion of Six3 did not affect the initial development of the optic vesicle but did arrest subsequent neuroretina specification. Ectopic rostral expansion of Wnt8b expression was the major response to Six3 deletion and the leading cause for the specific lack of neuroretina, as ectopic Wnt8b expression in transgenic embryos was sufficient to suppress neuroretina specification. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we identified Six3-responsive elements in the Wnt8b locus and demonstrated that Six3 directly repressed Wnt8b expression in vivo. Our findings provide a molecular framework to the program leading to neuroretina differentiation and may be relevant for the development of novel strategies aimed at characterizing and eventually treating different abnormalities in eye formation.
Wei Liu, Oleg Lagutin, Eric Swindell, Milan Jamrich, Guillermo Oliver
Patients with Kallmann syndrome (KS) have hypogonadotropic hypogonadism caused by a deficiency of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and a defective sense of smell related to olfactory bulb aplasia. Based on the findings in a fetus affected by the X chromosome–linked form of the disease, it has been suggested that hypogonadism in KS results from the failed embryonic migration of neuroendocrine GnRH1 cells from the nasal epithelium to the forebrain. We asked whether this singular observation might extend to other developmental disorders that also include arrhinencephaly. We therefore studied the location of GnRH1 cells in fetuses affected by different arrhinencephalic disorders, specifically X-linked KS, CHARGE syndrome, trisomy 13, and trisomy 18, using immunohistochemistry. Few or no neuroendocrine GnRH1 cells were detected in the preoptic and hypothalamic regions of all arrhinencephalic fetuses, whereas large numbers of these cells were present in control fetuses. In all arrhinencephalic fetuses, many GnRH1 cells were present in the frontonasal region, the first part of their migratory path, as were interrupted olfactory nerve fibers that formed bilateral neuromas. Our findings define a pathological sequence whereby a lack of migration of neuroendocrine GnRH cells stems from the primary embryonic failure of peripheral olfactory structures. This can occur either alone, as in isolated KS, or as part of a pleiotropic disease, such as CHARGE syndrome, trisomy 13, and trisomy 18.
Luis Teixeira, Fabien Guimiot, Catherine Dodé, Catherine Fallet-Bianco, Robert P. Millar, Anne-Lise Delezoide, Jean-Pierre Hardelin
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process that is essential for cellular homeostasis and organismal viability in eukaryotes. However, the extent of its functions in higher-order processes of organismal physiology and behavior is still unknown. Here, we report that autophagy is essential for the maintenance of balance in mice and that its deficiency leads to severe balance disorders. We generated mice deficient in autophagin-1 protease (Atg4b) and showed that they had substantial systemic reduction of autophagic activity. Autophagy reduction occurred through defective proteolytic processing of the autophagosome component LC3 and its paralogs, which compromised the rate of autophagosome maturation. Despite their viability, Atg4b-null mice showed unusual patterns of behavior that are common features of inner ear pathologies. Consistent with this, Atg4b-null mice showed defects in the development of otoconia, organic calcium carbonate crystals essential for sense of balance (equilibrioception). Furthermore, these abnormalities were exacerbated in Atg5–/– mice, which completely lack the ability to perform autophagy, confirming that autophagic activity is necessary for otoconial biogenesis. Autophagy deficiency also led to impaired secretion and assembly of otoconial core proteins, thus hampering otoconial development. Taken together, these results describe an essential role for autophagy in inner ear development and equilibrioception and open new possibilities for understanding and treating human balance disorders, which are of growing relevance among the elderly population.
Guillermo Mariño, Alvaro F. Fernández, Sandra Cabrera, Yunxia W. Lundberg, Rubén Cabanillas, Francisco Rodríguez, Natalia Salvador-Montoliu, José A. Vega, Antonino Germanà, Antonio Fueyo, José M.P. Freije, Carlos López-Otín
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
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