Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) play pleotrophic roles in nervous system development, and their signaling is highly regulated at virtually every step in the pathway. We have cloned a novel gene, Sizn1 (Smad-interacting zinc finger protein), which functions as a transcriptional coactivator of BMP signaling. It positively modulates BMP signaling by interacting with Smad family members and associating with CBP in the transcription complex. Sizn1 is expressed in the ventral embryonic forebrain, where, as we will show, it contributes to BMP-dependent, cholinergic-neuron-specific gene expression. These data indicate that Sizn1 is a positive modulator of BMP signaling and provide further insight into how BMP signaling can be modulated in neuronal progenitor subsets to influence cell-type-specific gene expression and development.
An estimated 1-3% of individuals within the United States are diagnosed with mental retardation (MR), yet the cause is unknown in nearly 50% of the patients. While several environmental, genetic and combined teratogenetic etiologies have been identified, many causative genes remain to be identified. Furthermore, the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying MR are known for very few of these genes. Males have a much higher incidence of MR implicating genes on the X-chromosome. We have recently identified a novel gene, SIZN1, on the X-chromosome and showed that it functions in modulating the BMP signaling pathway. Furthermore, we have shown this gene is necessary for basal forebrain cholinergic neuron (BFCN) specific gene expression. Given that cognitive function is impaired when BFCNs are lost or functionally disrupted, we undertook a screen of cognitively impaired males for SIZN1 mutations. We report on four different sequence variants in SIZN1 in 11 individuals with nonsyndromic X-linked mental retardation. Our data implicate SIZN1 as a candidate gene for X-linked mental retardation and/or as a neurocognitive functional modifier.
BMP; SIZN1(ZCCHC12); forebrain cholinergic neuron; X-linked mental retardation
The Zcchc11 enzyme is implicated in microRNA (miRNA) regulation. It can uridylate let-7 precursors to decrease quantities of the mature miRNA in embryonic stem cell lines, suggested to mediate stem cell maintenance. It can uridylate mature miR-26 to relieve silencing activity without impacting miRNA content in cancer cell lines, suggested to mediate cytokine and growth factor expression. Broader roles of Zcchc11 in shaping or remodeling the miRNome or in directing biological or physiological processes remain entirely speculative. We generated Zcchc11-deficient mice to address these knowledge gaps. Zcchc11 deficiency had no impact on embryogenesis or fetal development, but it significantly decreased survival and growth immediately following birth, indicating a role for this enzyme in early postnatal fitness. Deep sequencing of small RNAs from neonatal livers revealed roles of this enzyme in miRNA sequence diversity. Zcchc11 deficiency diminished the lengths and terminal uridine frequencies for diverse mature miRNAs, but it had no influence on the quantities of any miRNAs. The expression of IGF-1, a liver-derived protein essential to early growth and survival, was enhanced by Zcchc11 expression in vitro, and miRNA silencing of IGF-1 was alleviated by uridylation events observed to be Zcchc11-dependent in the neonatal liver. In neonatal mice, Zcchc11 deficiency significantly decreased IGF-1 mRNA in the liver and IGF-1 protein in the blood. We conclude that the Zcchc11-mediated terminal uridylation of mature miRNAs is pervasive and physiologically significant, especially important in the neonatal period for fostering IGF-1 expression and enhancing postnatal growth and survival. We propose that the miRNA 3′ terminus is a regulatory node upon which multiple enzymes converge to direct silencing activity and tune gene expression.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are molecules that regulate gene expression, usually serving silencing functions. Mechanisms regulating miRNAs are poorly understood. In test tube experiments, the enzyme Zcchc11 adds uridines to the ends of miRNAs and their precursors, with uridyation of miRNA precursors decreasing the quantities of mature miRNAs and uridylation of mature miRNAs decreasing their silencing activity. Whether, when, and to what effect Zcchc11 alters miRNA in living animals has never previously been reported. To understand functions of Zcchc11 in integrative biology, we generated mice deficient in Zcchc11. Mutant mice were born normally, but some died soon after birth and survivors grew poorly. No miRNA quantities were changed in tissues sampled from these mice, but mature miRNAs were less likely to have additional uridines on their ends. Some miRNAs that were uridylated by Zcchc11 targeted a critical growth factor known as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), but they did so less effectively when uridylated. Zcchc11-deficient mice had decreased amounts of IGF-1 in the liver and blood. These data reveal that Zcchc11 is an important enzyme in living animals for uridylating mature miRNAs, enhancing IGF-1 expression, and promoting neonatal growth and survival, suggesting a novel mode of gene regulation that is biologically significant.
Dysfunction of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs) is an early pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Numerous studies have indicated that nerve growth factor (NGF) supports survival and phenotypic differentiation of BFCNs. Consistent with a potential link to AD pathogenesis, TrkA, a NGF receptor, is expressed in cholinergic forebrain neuronal populations including those in basal forebrain (BF) and striatum, and is markedly reduced in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) without dementia and early-stage AD. To investigate the role of TrkA in the development, connectivity, and function of the BF cholinergic system and its contribution to AD pathology, we have generated a forebrain-specific conditional TrkA knockout mouse line. Our findings show a key role for TrkA signaling in establishing the BF cholinergic circuitry through the ERK pathway, and demonstrate that the normal developmental increase of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) expression becomes critically dependent on TrkA signaling before neuronal connections are established. Moreover, the anatomical and physiological deficits caused by lack of TrkA signaling in BFCNs have selective impact on cognitive activity. These data demonstrate that TrkA loss results in cholinergic BF dysfunction and cognitive decline that is reminiscent of MCI and early AD.
Acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and release from basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN) innervating the cerebral cortex and hippocampus are essential processes for normal learning, memory and attention. Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) 9 is a cholinergic differentiation factor in the developing septum that increases ACh synthesis and choline acetyltransferase (Chat) gene expression both in vivo and in vitro. We investigated the possible induction of cholinergic trophic factors by BMP9 in murine septal cells. Nerve growth factor (NGF) protein expression and secretion into the medium was increased in cultured embryonic septal cells treated with BMP9, and partially mediated BMP9-induced acetylcholine production and Chat gene expression. BMP9-induced Ngf gene expression was detected in post-mitotic cells, required new protein synthesis and was blocked by BMP type I receptor inhibition. Cholinergic neurons were isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting based on either transgenic expression of green fluorescent protein driven by the Chat promoter or NGF receptor (p75) immunostaining. Although both non-cholinergic and cholinergic neurons in untreated cultures expressed similar low levels of Ngf, increased Ngf gene expression was restricted to Chat-positive neurons in BMP9 treated cultures. Likewise, similar levels of Ngf mRNA were detected in p75-negative and p75-postive septal cells, yet only p75-positive BFCN increased their Ngf gene expression when treated with BMP9, and only these cells expressed the Alk1 BMP receptor. The data suggest an autocrine/paracine role for NGF in the development and/or maintenance of BFCN and imply that the stimulation of NGF production and release contributes to the cholinergic-supportive properties of BMP9.
Basal forebrain; Cholinergic neuron; Septum; Nerve growth factor; Neurotrophin; Differentiation; Fluorescence
In an effort to identify genes that specify the mammalian forebrain, we used a comparative approach to identify mouse homologs of transcription factors expressed in developing Caenorhabditis elegans GABAergic neurons. A cell-specific microarray profiling study revealed a set of transcription factors that are highly expressed in embryonic C. elegans GABAergic neurons.
Bioinformatic analyses identified mouse protein homologs of these selected transcripts and their expression pattern was mapped in the mouse embryonic forebrain by in situ hybridization. A review of human homologs indicates several of these genes are potential candidates in neurodevelopmental disorders.
Our comparative approach has revealed several novel candidates that may serve as future targets for studies of mammalian forebrain development.
Retinoic acid (RA) synthesized by Raldh3 in the frontonasal surface ectoderm of chick embryos has been suggested to function in early forebrain patterning by regulating Fgf8, Shh, and Meis2 expression. Similar expression of Raldh3 exists in E8.75 mouse embryos, but Raldh2 is also expressed in the optic vesicle at this stage suggesting that both genes may play a role in early forebrain patterning. Also, Raldh3 is expressed later in the forebrain itself (lateral ganglionic eminence; LGE) starting at E12.5, suggesting a later role in forebrain neurogenesis. Here we have analyzed mouse embryos carrying single or double null mutations in Raldh2 and Raldh3 for defects in forebrain development. Raldh2-/-;Raldh3-/- embryos completely lacked RA signaling activity in the early forebrain, but exhibited relatively normal expression of Fgf8, Shh, and Meis2 in the forebrain. Thus, we find no clear requirement for RA in controlling expression of these important forebrain patterning genes, but Raldh3 expression in the frontonasal surface ectoderm was found to be needed for normal Fgf8 expression in the olfactory pit. Our studies revealed that later expression of Raldh3 in the subventricular zone of the LGE is required for RA signaling activity in the ventral forebrain. Importantly, expression of dopamine receptor D2 in E18.5 Raldh3-/- embryos was essentially eliminated in the developing nucleus accumbens, a tissue lying close to the source of RA provided by Raldh3. Our results suggest that the role of RA during forebrain development begins late when Raldh3 expression initiates in the ventral subventricular zone.
Forebrain; Retinoic acid; Raldh2; Raldh3; Subventricular zone; Lateral ganglionic eminence; Striatum; Nucleus accumbens; Dopamine receptor D2
The expression of the Nkx2.2 gene is involved in the organization of the alar-basal boundary in the forebrain of vertebrates. Its expression in different diencephalic and telencephalic regions, helped to define distinct progenitor domains in mouse and chick. Here we investigated the pattern of Nkx2.2 protein distribution throughout the development of the forebrain of the anuran amphibian, Xenopus laevis. We used immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization techniques for its detection in combination with other essential territorial markers in the forebrain. No expression was observed in the telencephalon. In the alar hypothalamus, Nkx2.2 positive cells were scattered in the suprachiasmatic territory, but also in the supraopto-paraventricular area, as defined by the expression of the transcription factor Orthopedia (Otp) and the lack of xDll4. In the basal hypothalamus Nkx2.2 expressing cells were localized in the tuberal region, with the exception of the arcuate nucleus, rich in Otp expressing cells. In the diencephalon it was expressed in all three prosomeres (P1–P3) and not in the zona limitans intrathalamica. The presence of Nkx2.2 expressing cells in P3 was restricted to the alar portion, as well as in prosomere P2, whereas in P1 the Nkx2.2 expressing cells were located in the basal plate and identified the alar/basal boundary. These results showed that Nkx2.2 and Sonic hedgehog are expressed in parallel adjacent stripes along the anterior–posterior axis. The results of this study showed a conserved distribution pattern of Nkx2.2 among vertebrates, crucial to recognize subdivisions that are otherwise indistinct, and supported the relevance of this transcription factor in the organization of the forebrain, particularly in the delineation of the alar/basal boundary of the forebrain.
prosencephalon; hypothalamus; in situ hybridization; evolution; forebrain patterning; thalamus
Mammalian forebrain cholinergic neurons are composed of local circuit neurons in the striatum and projection neurons in the basal forebrain. These neurons are known to arise from a common pool of progenitors that primarily resides in the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE). However, little is known about the genetic programs that differentiate these two types of cholinergic neurons. Using inducible genetic fate mapping, here we have examined the developmental fate of cells that express the homeodomain transcription factor Gbx2 in the MGE. We show that the Gbx2 lineage-derived cells that undergo tangential migration exclusively give rise to almost all cholinergic interneurons in the striatum, while those undergoing radial migration mainly produce non-cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain. Deletion of Gbx2 throughout the mouse embryo or specifically in the MGE results in abnormal distribution and significant reduction of cholinergic neurons in the striatum. We show that early-born cholinergic interneurons preferentially populate the lateral aspect of the striatum and mature earlier than late-born neurons, which normally reside in the medial part of the striatum. In the absence of Gbx2, early-born striatal cholinergic precursors display abnormal neurite outgrowth and increased complexity, and abnormally contribute to the medial of the caudate-putamen, while late-born (after embryonic day 12.5) striatal cholinergic interneurons are largely missing. Together, our data demonstrate that Gbx2 is required for development of striatal cholinergic interneurons, perhaps by regulating tangential migration of the striatal cholinergic precursors.
medial ganglionic eminence; striatum; cholinergic neuron; interneurons; cell fate; mice; transcription factor; Gbx2
The transcription factor Nkx2-1 belongs to the homeobox-encoding family of proteins that have essential functions in prenatal brain development. Nkx2-1 is required for the specification of cortical interneurons and several neuronal subtypes of the ventral forebrain. Moreover, this transcription factor is involved in migratory processes by regulating the expression of guidance molecules. Interestingly, Nkx2-1 expression was recently detected in the mouse brain at postnatal stages. Using two transgenic mouse lines that allow prenatal or postnatal cell type-specific deletion of Nkx2-1, we show that continuous expression of the transcription factor is essential for the maturation and maintenance of cholinergic basal forebrain neurons in mice. Notably, prenatal deletion of Nkx2-1 in GAD67-expressing neurons leads to a nearly complete loss of cholinergic neurons and parvalbumin-containing GABAergic neurons in the basal forebrain. We also show that postnatal mutation of Nkx2-1 in choline acetyltransferase-expressing cells causes a striking reduction in their number. These degenerative changes are accompanied by partial denervation of their target structures and results in a discrete impairment of spatial memory.
choline acetyltransferase; choreoathetosis; human; mouse; parvalbumin
Truncating mutations were found in the PHF8 gene (encoding the PHD finger protein 8) in two unrelated families with X linked mental retardation (XLMR) associated with cleft lip/palate (MIM 300263). Expression studies showed that this gene is ubiquitously transcribed, with strong expression of the mouse orthologue Phf8 in embryonic and adult brain structures. The coded PHF8 protein harbours two functional domains, a PHD finger and a JmjC (Jumonji-like C terminus) domain, implicating it in transcriptional regulation and chromatin remodelling. The association of XLMR and cleft lip/palate in these patients with mutations in PHF8 suggests an important function of PHF8 in midline formation and in the development of cognitive abilities, and links this gene to XLMR associated with cleft lip/palate. Further studies will explore the specific mechanisms whereby PHF8 alterations lead to mental retardation and midline defects.
The basal forebrain cholinergic system (BFCS) plays a role in several aspects of attentional function. Activation of this system by different afferent inputs is likely to influence how attentional resources are allocated. While it has been recognized for some time that the hypothalamus is a significant source of projections to the basal forebrain, the phenotype(s) of these inputs and the conditions under which their regulation of the BFCS becomes functionally relevant are still unclear. The cell bodies of neurons expressing orexin/hypocretin neuropeptides are restricted to the lateral hypothalamus and contiguous perifornical area but have widespread projections, including to the basal forebrain. Orexin fibers and both orexin receptor subtypes are distributed in cholinergic parts of the basal forebrain, where application of orexin peptides increases cell activity and cortical acetylcholine release. Furthermore, disruption of orexin signaling in the basal forebrain impairs the cholinergic response to an appetitive stimulus. In this review, we propose that orexin inputs to the BFCS form an anatomical substrate for links between arousal and attention, and that these interactions might be particularly important as a means by which interoceptive cues bias allocation of attentional resources toward related exteroceptive stimuli. Dysfunction in orexin-acetylcholine interactions may play a role in the arousal and attentional deficits that accompany neurodegenerative conditions as diverse as drug addiction and age-related cognitive decline.
acetylcholine; orexin; hypocretin; basal forebrain; attention; arousal
Integrin-linked kinase (Ilk) is a scaffold and kinase that links integrin receptors to the actin cytoskeleton and to signaling pathways involved in cell adhesion, migration, and extracellular matrix deposition. Targeted deletion of Ilk from embryonic mouse dorsal forebrain neuroepithelium results in severe cortical lamination defects resembling cobblestone (type II) lissencephaly. Defects in adult mutants include neuronal invasion of the marginal zone, downward displacement of marginal zone components, fusion of the cerebral hemispheres, and scalloping of the dentate gyrus. These lesions are associated with abundant astrogliosis and widespread fragmentation of the basal lamina at the cortical surface. During cortical development, neuronal ectopias are associated with severe disorganization of radial glial processes and displacement of Cajal-Retzius cells. Lesions are not seen when Ilk is specifically deleted from embryonic neurons. Interestingly, targeted Ilk deletion has no effect on proliferation or survival of cortical cells or on phosphorylation of two Ilk substrates, Pkb/Akt and Gsk-3β, suggesting that Ilk does not regulate cortical lamination via these enzymes. Instead, Ilk acts in vivo as a major intracellular mediator of integrin-dependent basal lamina formation. This study demonstrates a critical role for Ilk in cortical lamination and suggests that Ilk-associated pathways are involved in the pathogenesis of cobblestone lissencephalies.
integrin-linked kinase; extracellular matrix; cortical development; cobblestone lissencephaly; radial glia; reelin
Forebrain cholinergic neurons modulate complex mammalian behaviors such as reward-related learning and cognitive functions. Although their dysfunction is implicated in various psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, the factors governing cholinergic neuron differentiation and diversity are mostly unknown. We tested the role of the LIM-homeobox gene Isl1 in the development of forebrain cholinergic neurons by conditionally deleting Isl1 using a Six3-cre transgene. A depletion of cholinergic interneurons in the dorsal and ventral striatum, and cholinergic projection neurons in the nucleus basalis is observed and is ascribed to an early and persistent defect in cholinergic neuron differentiation. Notably, cholinergic innervation to the neocortex is abolished, whereas that to the hippocampus is unaltered. The unique pattern of cholinergic hypoinnervation encountered is supported by the presence of cholinergic projection neurons in the medial septum, the magnocellular preoptic area, and the substantia innominata. Together, these results demonstrate the requirement for Isl1 in the development of restricted telencephalic cholinergic neurons and link the development of cholinergic neurons in anatomically disparate sites to Isl1 function.
transcription factor; cholinergic neuron; differentiation; forebrain; basal forebrain; basalis; striatum
A number of studies in recent years have shown that members of the Roundabout (Robo) receptor family, Robo1 and Robo2, play significant roles in the formation of axonal tracks in the developing forebrain and in the migration and morphological differentiation of cortical interneurons. Here, we investigated the expression and function of Robo3 in the developing cortex. We found that this receptor is strongly expressed in the preplate layer and cortical hem of the early cortex where it colocalizes with markers of Cajal–Retzius cells and interneurons. Analysis of Robo3 mutant mice at early (embryonic day [E] 13.5) and late (E18.5) stages of corticogenesis revealed no significant change in the number of interneurons, but a change in their morphology at E13.5. However, preliminary analysis on a small number of mice that lacked all 3 Robo receptors indicated a marked reduction in the number of cortical interneurons, but only a limited effect on their morphology. These observations and the results of other recent studies suggest a complex interplay between the 3 Robo receptors in regulating the number, migration and morphological differentiation of cortical interneurons.
interneuron; morphology; Robo
Semaphorins and their receptors, plexins, are emerging as key regulators of various aspects of neural and nonneural development. Semaphorin 4D (Sema4D) and B-type plexins demonstrate distinct expression patterns over critical time windows during the development of the murine neocortex. Here, analysis of mice genetically lacking plexin-B1 or plexin-B2 revealed the significance of Sema4D-plexin-B signaling in cortical development. Deficiency of plexin-B2 resulted in abnormal cortical layering and defective migration and differentiation of several subtypes of cortical neurons, including Cajal-Retzius cells, GABAergic interneurons, and principal cells in vivo. In contrast, a lack of plexin-B1 did not impact on cortical development in vivo. In various ex vivo assays on embryonic forebrain, Sema4D enhanced the radial and tangential migration of developing neurons in a plexin-B2-dependent manner. These results suggest that Sema4D-plexin-B2 interactions regulate mechanisms underlying cell specification, differentiation, and migration during corticogenesis.
Transforming Growth Factor β (Tgfβ) and associated signaling effectors are expressed in the forebrain, but little is known about the role of this multifunctional cytokine during forebrain development. Using hippocampal and cortical primary cell cultures of developing mouse brains, this study identified Tgfβ-regulated genes not only associated with cell cycle exit of progenitors but also with adoption of neuronal cell fate. Accordingly, we observed not only an antimitotic effect of Tgfβ on progenitors but also an increased expression of neuronal markers in Tgfβ treated cultures. This effect was dependent upon Smad4. Furthermore, in vivo loss-of-function analyses using Tgfβ2−/−/Tgfβ3−/− double mutant mice showed the opposite effect of increased cell proliferation and fewer neurons in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Gata2, Runx1, and Nedd9 were candidate genes regulated by Tgfβ and known to be involved in developmental processes of neuronal progenitors. Using siRNA-mediated knockdown, we identified Nedd9 as an essential signaling component for the Tgfβ-dependent increase in neuronal cell fate. Expression of this scaffolding protein, which is mainly described as a signaling molecule of the β1-integrin pathway, was not only induced after Tgfβ treatment but was also associated with morphological changes of the Nestin-positive progenitor pool observed upon exposure to Tgfβ.
cerebral cortex; differentiation; Hef1; Nestin; progenitor
Sonic hedgehog (SHH) is a secreted signaling factor that is implicated in the molecular patterning of the central nervous system (CNS), somites, and limbs in vertebrates. SHH has a crucial role in the generation of ventral cell types along the entire rostrocaudal axis of the neural tube. It is secreted early in development by the axial mesoderm (prechordal plate and notochord) and the overlying ventral neural tube. Recent studies clarified the impact of SHH signaling mechanisms on dorsoventral patterning of the spinal cord, but the corresponding phenomena in the rostral forebrain are slightly different and more complex. This notably involves separate Shh expression in the preoptic part of the forebrain alar plate, as well as in the hypothalamic floor and basal plates. The present work includes a detailed spatiotemporal description of the singular alar Shh expression pattern in the rostral preoptic forebrain of chick embryos, comparing it with FoxG1, Dlx5, Nkx2.1, and Nkx2.2 mRNA expression at diverse stages of development. As a result of this mapping, we report a subdivision of the preoptic region in dorsal and ventral zones; only the dorsal part shows Shh expression. The positive area impinges as well upon a median septocommissural preoptic domain. Our study strongly suggests tangential migration of Shh-positive cells from the preoptic region into other subpallial domains, particularly into the pallidal mantle and the intermediate septum.
chick embryo; alar plate; forebrain; preoptic area; anterior entopeduncular area; subpallium; telencephalon; pallidum
Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) comprise a family of developmental regulators implicated in a wide variety of neurological functions. FGF receptors-1,-2,-3 (Fgfrs) are expressed in the embryonic forebrain, including regions overlapping with ventral sites of oligodendrocyte progenitor (OLP) generation. Although FGF signaling is known to influence the proliferation of OLPs in vitro, functions of different Fgfrs in vivo are lacking. Here, we examined single and double mutants with conditional disruption of Fgfrs, specifically in the embryonic forebrain, to investigate the effect of FGFs on the generation and proliferation of OLPs in vivo. FGF signaling, through cooperation between Fgfr1 and Fgfr2 but not Fgfr3, is required for the initial generation of OLPs in the mouse ventral forebrain, with Fgfr1 being a stronger inducer than Fgfr2. In cultures derived from embryonic mutant forebrains or from normal forebrains grown in the presence of Fgfr inhibitor, a strong attenuation of OLP generation was observed, supporting the role of FGF signaling in vivo. Contrary to in vitro findings, Fgfr1 and Fgfr2 signaling is not required for the proliferation of OLPs in vivo. Finally, failure of OLP generation in the Fgfr mutants occurred without loss of sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling; and pharmacological inhibition of either Fgfr or hedgehog signaling in parallel cultures strongly inhibited OLP generation, suggesting that Fgfrs cooperate with Shh to generate OLPs. Overall, our results reveal for the first time an essential role of FGF signaling in vivo, where the three Fgfrs differentially control the normal generation of OLPs from the embryonic ventral forebrain.
oligodendrocyte; myelin; FGF receptor; Fibroblast Growth Factor; sonic hedgehog
The bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are a group of powerful morphogens that are critical for development of the nervous system. The effects of BMP signaling on neural stem cells are myriad and dynamic, changing with each stage of development. During early development inhibition of BMP signaling differentiates neuroectoderm from ectoderm, and BMP signaling helps to specify neural crest. Thus modulation of BMP signaling underlies formation of both the central and peripheral nervous systems. BMPs secreted from dorsal structures then form a gradient which helps pattern the dorsal–ventral axis of the developing spinal cord and brain. During forebrain development BMPs sequentially induce neurogenesis and then astrogliogenesis and participate in neurite outgrowth from immature neurons. BMP signaling also plays a critical role in maintaining adult neural stem cell niches in the subventricular zone (SVZ) and subgranular zone (SGZ). BMPs are able to exert such diverse effects through closely regulated temporospatial expression and interaction with other signaling pathways.
BMP; neural stem cells; patterning; neurogenesis; gliogenesis
Patterning of the cerebral cortex during embryogenesis depends not only on passive diffusion of morphogens but also on signal delivery by Cajal-Retzius neurons that migrate over long distances.
Patterning of the cortical neuroepithelium occurs at early stages of embryonic development in response to secreted molecules from signaling centers. These signals have been shown to establish the graded expression of transcription factors in progenitors within the ventricular zone and to control the size and positioning of cortical areas. Cajal-Retzius (CR) cells are among the earliest generated cortical neurons and migrate from the borders of the developing pallium to cover the cortical primordium by E11.5. We show that molecularly distinct CR subtypes distribute in specific combinations in pallial territories at the time of cortical regionalization. By means of genetic ablation experiments in mice, we report that loss of septum Dbx1-derived CR cells in the rostromedial pallium between E10.5 and E11.5 results in the redistribution of CR subtypes. This leads to changes in the expression of transcription factors within the neuroepithelium and in the proliferation properties of medial and dorsal cortical progenitors. Early regionalization defects correlate with shifts in the positioning of cortical areas at postnatal stages in the absence of alterations of gene expression at signaling centers. We show that septum-derived CR neurons express a highly specific repertoire of signaling factors. Our results strongly suggest that these cells, migrating over long distances and positioned in the postmitotic compartment, signal to ventricular zone progenitors and, thus, function as modulators of early cortical patterning.
Patterning of the cerebral cortex occurs early during embryonic development in response to secreted molecules or morphogens produced at signaling centers. These morphogens establish the graded expression of transcription factors (TFs) in progenitor cells and control the size and positioning of cortical areas in the postnatal animal. CR cells are among the earliest born cortical neurons and play a crucial role in cortical lamination. They are generated at signaling centers and migrate over long distances to cover its entire surface. We show that three different CR subtypes distribute in specific proportions in cortical territories. Genetic ablation of one subpopulation leads to a highly dynamic redistribution of the two others. This results in defects in expression of transcription factors and in progenitor cell proliferation, which correlate with the resulting changes in the size and positioning of cortical areas. Given our additional evidence that CR subtypes express specific repertoires of signaling factors, the ablation phenotypes point to a novel early role for CR cells as mediators of cortical patterning and suggest that CR cells are able to signal to progenitor cells. Our data thus add to the conventional model that morphogens act by passive diffusion and point to a strategy of morphogen delivery over long distance by migrating cells.
Cajal–Retzius (CR) cells play a crucial role in the formation of the cerebral cortex, yet the molecules that control their development are largely unknown. Here, we show that Ebf transcription factors are expressed in forebrain signalling centres—the septum, cortical hem and the pallial–subpallial boundary—known to generate CR cells. We identified Ebf2, through fate mapping studies, as a novel marker for cortical hem- and septum-derived CR cells. Loss of Ebf2 in vivo causes a transient decrease in CR cell numbers on the cortical surface due to a migratory defect in the cortical hem, and is accompanied by upregulation of Ebf3 in this and other forebrain territories that produce CR cells, without affecting proper cortical lamination. Accordingly, using in vitro preparations, we demonstrated that both Ebf2 and Ebf3, singly or together, control the migration of CR cells arising in the cortical hem. These findings provide evidence that Ebfs directly regulate CR cell development.
► Ebf2 is a novel marker for hem- and septum-derived Cajal–Retzius cells. ► Ebf2 mutant shows a transient migratory defect of hem-derived Cajal–Retzius cells. ► Ebf3 is expressed in similar territories as Ebf2 and rescues Ebf2 mutant phenotype. ► Both Ebf2 and Ebf3 are required for Cajal–Retzius cell migration.
Corticogenesis; Migration; Reelin; Transcription factor
The Arx transcription factor is expressed in the developing ventral telencephalon and subsets of its derivatives. Mutation of human ARX ortholog causes neurological disorders including epilepsy, lissencephaly, and mental retardation. We have isolated the mouse Arx endogenous enhancer modules that control its tightly compartmentalized forebrain expression. Interestingly, they are scattered downstream of its coding region and partially included within the introns of the downstream PolA1 gene. These enhancers are ultraconserved noncoding sequences that are highly conserved throughout the vertebrate phylum. Functional characterization of the Arx GABAergic enhancer element revealed its strict dependence on the activity of Dlx transcription factors. Dlx overexpression induces ectopic expression of endogenous Arx and its isolated enhancer, whereas loss of Dlx expression results in reduced Arx expression, suggesting that Arx is a key mediator of Dlx function. To further elucidate the mechanisms involved, a combination of gain-of-function studies in mutant Arx or Dlx tissues was pursued. This analysis provided evidence that, although Arx is necessary for the Dlx-dependent promotion of interneuron migration, it is not required for the GABAergic cell fate commitment mediated by Dlx factors. Although Arx has additional functions independent of the Dlx pathway, we have established a direct genetic relationship that controls critical steps in the development of telencephalic GABAergic neurons. These findings contribute elucidating the genetic hierarchy that likely underlies the etiology of a variety of human neurodevelopmental disorders.
basal forebrain; development; epilepsy; GABAergic neuron; neuronal progenitor cell; basal ganglia
The basal forebrain refers to heterogeneous structures located close to the medial and ventral surfaces of the cerebral hemispheres. It contains diverse populations of neurons, including the cholinergic cortically projecting cells that show severe loss in Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative diseases. The basal forebrain does not display any cytoarchitectural or other structural features that make it easy to demarcate functional boundaries, a problem that allowed different investigators to propose different organizational schemes. The present paper uses novel three-dimensional reconstructions and numerical analyses for studying the spatial organization of four major basal forebrain cell populations, the cholinergic, parvalbumin, calbindin and calretinin containing neurons in the rat. Our analyses suggest that the distribution of these four cell populations is not random but displays a general pattern of association. Within the cholinergic space (i.e. the volume occupied by the cortically projecting cholinergic cell bodies) the three other cell types form twisted bands along the longitudinal axis of a central dense core of cholinergic cells traversing the traditionally defined basal forebrain regions, (i.e. the medial septum, diagonal bands, the substantia innominata, pallidal regions and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis). At a smaller scale, the different cell types within the cholinergic space occupy overlapping high-density cell clusters that are either chemically uniform or mixed. However, the cell composition of these high-density clusters is regionally specific.
The proposed scheme of basal forebrain organization, using cell density or density relations as criteria, offers a new perspective on structure–function relationship, unconstrained by traditional region boundaries.
computer-assisted 3D reconstruction; cell density distribution; cell density relations; surface rendering
Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) play diverse roles in embryonic kidney development, regulating essential aspects of both ureteric bud and nephron development. In this review, we provide an overview of reported expression patterns and functions of BMP signaling components within the nephrogenic zone or nephron progenitor niche of the developing kidney. Reported in situ hybridization results are relatively challenging to interpret and sometimes conflicting. Comparing these with high-resolution microarray gene expression data available in Gudmap, we propose a consensus gene expression pattern indicating that essential components of both the Smad-mediated pathway and the Smad-independent mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are expressed in the nephron progenitor cell compartment and may be activated by BMPs, but that cortical interstitium may only be able to respond to BMPs through MAPK signaling. Localization of phosphorylated Smad transcription factors and studies of a BMP reporter mouse strain however indicate limited transcriptional responsiveness to Smad-mediated signaling in cap mesenchyme. An overview of genetic inactivation, organ culture, and primary cell studies indicates that BMP signaling may elicit two important biological outcomes in the nephrogenic zone: survival of the cap mesenchyme, and the physical segregation of interstitial and progenitor cell compartments. Ongoing studies using a novel primary cell system that establishes the nephrogenic zone ex vivo are pursuing the concept that the balance between Smad-mediated and Smad-independent responses to BMP ligand may underlie these distinct outcomes.
Bone morphogenetic protein; BMP; Nephrogenesis; Nephron progenitor cell; Nephron differentiation; Nephrogenic zone