Insights into how the Frizzled/LRP6 receptor complex receives, transduces and terminates Wnt signals will enhance our understanding of the control of the Wnt/ß-catenin pathway.
In pursuit of such insights, we performed a genome-wide RNAi screen in Drosophila cells expressing an activated form of LRP6 and a β-catenin-responsive reporter. This screen resulted in the identification of Bili, a Band4.1-domain containing protein, as a negative regulator of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. We found that the expression of Bili in Drosophila embryos and larval imaginal discs significantly overlaps with the expression of Wingless (Wg), the Drosophila Wnt ortholog, which is consistent with a potential function for Bili in the Wg pathway. We then tested the functions of Bili in both invertebrate and vertebrate animal model systems. Loss-of-function studies in Drosophila and zebrafish embryos, as well as human cultured cells, demonstrate that Bili is an evolutionarily conserved antagonist of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Mechanistically, we found that Bili exerts its antagonistic effects by inhibiting the recruitment of AXIN to LRP6 required during pathway activation.
These studies identify Bili as an evolutionarily conserved negative regulator of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway.
Wnt signaling controls a wide range of developmental processes and its aberrant regulation can lead to disease. To better understand the regulation of this pathway, we identified zebrafish homologues of Naked Cuticle (Nkd), Nkd1 and Nkd2, which have previously been shown to inhibit canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Zebrafish nkd1 expression increases substantially after the mid-blastula transition in a pattern mirroring that of activated canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling, being expressed in both the ventrolateral blastoderm margin and also in the axial mesendoderm. In contrast, zebrafish nkd2 is maternally and ubiquitously expressed. Overexpression of Nkd1 or Nkd2a suppressed canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling at multiple stages of early zebrafish development and also exacerbated the cyclopia and axial mesendoderm convergence and extension (C&E) defect in the non-canonical Wnt/PCP mutant silberblick (slb/wnt11). Thus, Nkds are sufficient to antagonize both canonical and non-canonical Wnt signaling. Reducing Nkd function using antisense morpholino oligonucleotides resulted in increased expression of canonical Wnt/β-catenin target genes. Finally, reducing Nkd1 function in slb mutants suppressed the axial mesendoderm C&E defect. These data indicate that zebrafish Nkd1 and Nkd2 function to limit both canonical and non-canonical Wnt signaling.
Naked Cuticle; Planar Cell Polarity; silberblick; bozozok; Wnt11; Wnt8; Dishevelled; β-catenin
We have previously demonstrated that Gpr177, the mouse orthologue of Drosophila Wls/Evi/Srt, is required for establishment of the anterior-posterior axis. The Gpr177 null phenotype is highly reminiscent to the loss of Wnt3, the earliest abnormality among all Wnt knockouts in mice. The expression of Gpr177 in various cell types and tissues lead us to hypothesize that reciprocal regulation of Wnt and Gpr177 is essential for the Wnt-dependent developmental and pathogenic processes. Here we create a new mouse strain permitting conditional inactivation of Gpr177. The loss of Gpr177 in the Wnt1-expressing cells causes mid/hindbrain and craniofacial defects which are far more severe than the Wnt1 knockout, but resemble the double knockout of Wnt1 and Wnt3a as well as β-catenin deletion in the Wnt1-expressing cells. Our findings demonstrate the importance of Gpr177 in Wnt1-mediated development of the mouse embryo, suggesting an overlapping function of Wnt family members in the Wnt1-expressing cells.
Gpr177; Wntless; Evi; Sprinter; β-catenin; neural crest; Wnt production; Wnt signaling
During development, embryos decode maternal morphogen inputs into highly precise zygotic gene expression. The discovery of the morphogen Bicoid and its profound effect on developmental programming in the Drosophila embryo has been a cornerstone in understanding the decoding of maternal inputs. Bicoid has been described as a classical morphogen that forms a concentration gradient along the antero-posterior axis of the embryo by diffusion and initiates expression of target genes in a concentration-dependent manner in the syncytial blastoderm. Recent work has emphasized the stability of the Bicoid gradient as a function of egg length and the role of nuclear dynamics in maintaining the Bicoid gradient. Bicoid and nuclear dynamics were observed but not modulated under the ideal conditions used previously. Therefore, it has not been tested explicitly whether a temporally stable Bicoid gradient prior to cellularization is required for precise patterning.
Here, we modulate both nuclear dynamics and the Bicoid gradient using laminar flows of different temperature in a microfluidic device to determine if stability of the Bicoid gradient prior to cellularization is essential for precise patterning. Dramatic motion of both cytoplasm and nuclei was observed prior to cellularization, and the Bicoid gradient was disrupted by nuclear motion and was highly abnormal as a function of egg length. Despite an abnormal Bicoid gradient during cycles 11–13, Even-skipped patterning in these embryos remained precise.
These results indicate that the stability of the Bicoid gradient as a function of egg length is nonessential during syncytial blastoderm stages. Further, presumably no gradient formed by simple diffusion on the scale of egg length could be responsible for the robust antero-posterior patterning observed, as severe cytoplasmic and nuclear motion would disrupt such a gradient. Additional mechanisms for how the embryo could sense its dimensions and interpret the Bicoid gradient are discussed.
Sequential addition of segments in the posteriorly growing end of the embryo is a developmental mechanism common to many bilaterians. However, posterior growth and patterning in most animals also entails the establishment of a ‘posterior organiser’ that expresses the Caudal and Wnt proteins and has been proposed to be an ancestral feature of animal development. We have studied the functional relationships between the Wnt-driven organiser and the segmentation mechanisms in a basal insect, the cockroach Periplaneta americana. Here, posteriorly-expressed Wnt1 promotes caudal and Delta expression early in development to generate a growth zone from which segments will later bud off. caudal maintains the undifferentiated growth zone by dampening Delta expression, and hence Notch-mediated segmentation occurs just outside the caudal domain. In turn, Delta expression maintains Wnt1, maintaining this posterior gene network until all segments have formed. This feedback between caudal, Wnt and Notch-signalling in regulating growth and segmentation seems conserved in other arthropods, with some aspects found even in vertebrates. Thus our findings not only support an ancestral Wnt posterior organiser, but also impinge on the proposals for a common origin of segmentation in arthropods, annelids and vertebrates.
Caudal; Wnt; Notch; Posterior organiser; Segmentation; Periplaneta americana
The vertebrate spine exhibits two striking characteristics. The first one is the periodic arrangement of its elements – the vertebrae – along the antero-posterior axis. This segmented organization is the result of somitogenesis, which takes place during organogenesis. The segmentation machinery involves a molecular oscillator – the segmentation clock – which delivers a periodic signal controlling somite production. During embryonic axis elongation, this signal is displaced posteriorly by a system of traveling signaling gradients – the wavefront – which depends on the Wnt, FGF and retinoic acid pathways. The other characteristic feature of the spine is the subdivision of groups of vertebrae into anatomical domains, such as the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and caudal regions. This axial regionalization is controlled by a set of transcription factors called Hox genes. Hox genes exhibit nested expression domains in the somites which reflect their linear arrangement along the chromosomes– a property termed colinearity. The colinear disposition of Hox genes expression domains provides a blueprint for the regionalization of the future vertebral territories of the spine. In amniotes, Hox genes are activated in the somite precursors of the epiblast in a temporal colinear sequence and they were proposed to control their progressive ingression into the nascent paraxial mesoderm. Consequently, the positioning of the expression domains of Hox genes along the antero-posterior axis is largely controlled by the timing of Hox activation during gastrulation. Positioning of the somitic Hox domains is subsequently refined through a cross talk with the segmentation machinery in the presomitic mesoderm. In this review, we focus on our current understanding of the embryonic mechanisms that establish vertebral identities during vertebrate development.
The homeobox gene caudal (cad) regulates posterior development in Drosophila. In early embryos, the cad protein (CAD) is expressed in a posterior-to-anterior concentration gradient, which contributes polarity to the developing embryo. The CAD gradient is complementary to and dependent on the anterior pattern organizer Bicoid (BCD), which represses the translation of ubiquitous maternal cad transcripts in the anterior embryo through a direct interaction with the cad 3′ untranslated region (UTR). Here, we show that early embryos of the lower cyclorrhaphan fly Megaselia express the putative cad orthologue Mab-cad throughout the posterior three quarters of the blastoderm but lack maternal transcripts. In transgenic blastoderm embryos of Drosophila, Mab-cad cis-regulatory DNA drives the expression of a reporter gene in a similar pattern, while Mab-cad 3′ UTR fails to mediate translational repression of a ubiquitously transcribed reporter. For another lower cyclorrhaphan fly (Lonchoptera) and two related outgroup taxa of Cyclorrhapha (Empis, Haematopota), we report maternal cad expression in ovarian follicles. Together, our results suggest that BCD is not required for the translational repression of Mab-cad, and that maternal cad expression was lost in the Megaselia lineage.
Gene expression; Enhancer; Translational repression; Evolution; Brachycera
Studies in many model systems have shown that canonical signaling through the pathway downstream of ligands of the Wnt family can regulate multiple steps in organogenesis, including cell proliferation, differentiation, and lineage specification. In addition, misexpression of the Wnt-family member Wingless in Drosophila imaginal disc cells can lead to transdetermination of progenitors from one lineage to another. Conditional deletion of the β-catenin component of the Wnt signaling pathway has indicated a role for Wnt signaling in mouse lung endoderm development. The full range of effects of this pathway, which includes the transcription factor Lef1, has not been explored, however.
To explore this issue, we expressed a constitutively active β-catenin-Lef1 fusion protein in transgenic embryos using a lung-endoderm-specific promoter from the surfactant protein C gene. Transgenic lungs appeared grossly normal, but internally they contained highly proliferative, cuboidal epithelium lacking fully differentiated lung cell types. Unexpectedly, microarray analysis and in situ hybridization revealed a mosaic of cells expressing marker genes characteristic of intestinal Paneth and goblet cells and other non-lung secretory cell types. In addition, there was strong ectopic expression of genes such as Cdx1 and Atoh1 that normally regulate gut development and early allocation of cells to intestinal secretory lineages.
Our results show that hyperactive Wnt signaling in lung progenitors expressing a lung-specific gene can induce a dramatic switch in lineage commitment and the generation of intestinal cell types. We discuss the relevance of our findings to the poorly understood pathological condition of intestinal metaplasia in humans.
To generate specialized structures, cells must obtain positional and directional information. In multi-cellular organisms, cells use the non-canonical Wnt or planar cell polarity (PCP) signaling pathway to establish directionality within a cell. In vertebrates, several Wnt molecules have been proposed as permissible polarity signals, but none has been shown to provide a directional cue. While PCP signaling components are conserved from human to fly, no PCP ligands have been reported in Drosophila. Here we report that in the epidermis of the Drosophila embryo two signaling molecules, Hedgehog (Hh) and Wingless (Wg or Wnt1), provide directional cues that induce the proper orientation of Actin-rich structures in the larval cuticle. We further find that proper polarity in the late embryo also involves the asymmetric distribution and phosphorylation of Armadillo (Arm or β-catenin) at the membrane and that interference with this Arm phosphorylation leads to polarity defects. Our results suggest new roles for Hh and Wg as instructive polarizing cues that help establish directionality within a cell sheet, and a new polarity-signaling role for the membrane fraction of the oncoprotein Arm.
The anterior-posterior axis of the mouse embryo is defined before formation of the primitive streak, and axis specification and subsequent anterior development involves signaling from both embryonic ectoderm and visceral endoderm. Τhe Wnt signaling pathway is essential for various developmental processes, but a role in anterior-posterior axis formation in the mouse has not been previously established. β-Catenin is a central player in the Wnt pathway and in cadherin-mediated cell adhesion. We generated β-catenin–deficient mouse embryos and observed a defect in anterior-posterior axis formation at embryonic day 5.5, as visualized by the absence of Hex and Hesx1 and the mislocation of cerberus-like and Lim1 expression. Subsequently, no mesoderm and head structures are generated. Intercellular adhesion is maintained since plakoglobin substitutes for β-catenin. Our data demonstrate that β-catenin function is essential in anterior-posterior axis formation in the mouse, and experiments with chimeric embryos show that this function is required in the embryonic ectoderm.
anterior visceral endoderm; Wnt/wingless pathway; cell adhesion; plakoglobin; armadillo
Wnt signaling is essential for axon wiring throughout the development of the nervous system in vertebrates and invertebrates. In rodents, Wnts are expressed in gradients that span the entire anterior–posterior (A–P) axis in the spinal cord and the medial–lateral axis in the superior colliculus. In the brainstem, Wnts are expressed in more complex gradients along the A–P axis. These gradients provide directional information for axon pathfinding and positional information for topographic mapping and are detected by cell polarity signaling pathways in the growth cone. The gradient expression of Wnts and the coordinated expression of Wnt signaling systems are regulated by mechanisms which are currently unknown. Injury to the adult spinal cord results in the re-induction of Wnts in multiple cell types around the lesion site and their signaling system in injured axons. The re-induced Wnts form gradients around the lesion site, with the lesion site being the peak. The re-inducedWnts may be responsible for the well-known retraction of descending motor axons through the receptor Ryk (related receptor tyrosine kinases). Wnt signaling is an appealing new therapeutic target for CNS repair. The mechanisms regulating the re-induction are unknown but will be informative for therapeutic design.
axon guidance; topographic mapping; spinal cord injury; axon regeneration; Wnt; Ryk; gradient
Because of their capacity to give rise to various types of cells in vitro, embryonic stem and embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells have been used as convenient models to study the mechanisms of cell differentiation in mammalian embryos. In this study, we explored the mouse P19 EC cell line as an effective tool to investigate the factors that may play essential roles in mesoderm formation and axial elongation morphogenesis. We first demonstrated that aggregated P19 cells not only exhibited gene expression patterns characteristic of mesoderm formation but also displayed elongation morphogenesis with a distinct anterior–posterior body axis as in the embryo. We then showed by RNA interference that these processes were controlled by various regulators of Wnt signaling pathways, namely β-catenin, Wnt3, Wnt3a, and Wnt5a, in a manner similar to normal embryo development. We further showed by inhibitor treatments that the axial elongation morphogenesis was dependent on the activity of Rho-associated kinase. Because of the convenience of these experimental manipulations, we propose that P19 cells can be used as a simple and efficient screening tool to assess the potential functions of specific molecules in mesoderm formation and axial elongation morphogenesis.
Wnt3; Wnt3a; Wnt5a; β-catenin; epiblast; convergent extension; ROCK
Breakage of bilateral symmetry in amphibian embryos depends on the development of a ciliated epithelium at the gastrocoel roof during early neurulation. Motile cilia at the gastrocoel roof plate (GRP) give rise to leftward flow of extracellular fluids. Flow is required for asymmetric gene expression and organ morphogenesis. Wnt signaling has previously been involved in two steps, Wnt/ß-catenin mediated induction of Foxj1, a regulator of motile cilia, and Wnt/planar cell polarity (PCP) dependent cilia polarization to the posterior pole of cells. We have studied Wnt11b in the context of laterality determination, as this ligand was reported to activate canonical and non-canonical Wnt signaling. Wnt11b was found to be expressed in the so-called superficial mesoderm (SM), from which the GRP derives. Surprisingly, Foxj1 was only marginally affected in loss-of-function experiments, indicating that another ligand acts in this early step of laterality specification. Wnt11b was required, however, for polarization of GRP cilia and GRP morphogenesis, in line with the known function of Wnt/PCP in cilia-driven leftward flow. In addition Xnr1 and Coco expression in the lateral-most GRP cells, which sense flow and generate the first asymmetric signal, was attenuated in morphants, involving Wnt signaling in yet another process related to symmetry breakage in Xenopus.
Specification and early patterning of the vertebrate heart are dependent on both canonical and noncanonical wingless (Wnt) signal pathways. However, the impact of each Wnt pathway on the later stages of myocardial development and differentiation remains controversial. Here, we report that the components of each Wnt signal conduit are expressed in the developing and postnatal heart, yet canonical/β-catenin activity is restricted to nonmyocardial regions. Subsequently, we observed that noncanonical Wnt (Wnt11) enhanced myocyte differentiation while preventing stabilization of the β-catenin protein, suggesting active repression of canonical Wnt signals. Wnt11 stimulation was synonymous with activation of a caspase 3 signal cascade, while inhibition of caspase activity led to accumulation of β-catenin and a dramatic reduction in myocyte differentiation. Taken together, these results suggest that noncanonical Wnt signals promote myocyte maturation through caspase-mediated inhibition of β-catenin activity.
The primitive foregut is patterned in a manner that spatially promotes proper organ specification along the anterior-posterior foregut axis. However, the molecular pathways that specify foregut endoderm progenitors are poorly understood. We show that Wnt2/2b signaling is required to specify lung endoderm progenitors within the anterior foregut. Embryos lacking Wnt2/2b expression exhibit complete lung agenesis and do not express Nkx2.1, the earliest marker of the lung endoderm. In contrast, other foregut endoderm derived organs including the thyroid, liver, and pancreas are correctly specified in Wnt2/2b null animals. We show that this phenotype is recapitulated by an endoderm restricted deletion of β-catenin, demonstrating that Wnt2/2b signaling through the canonical Wnt pathway is required to specify lung endoderm progenitors within the foregut. Moreover, activation of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling results in reprogramming of esophagus and stomach endoderm to a lung endoderm progenitor fate. Together, these data reveal that canonical Wnt2/2b signaling is uniquely required for specification of lung endoderm progenitors in the developing foregut.
Wnt5a is a member of the Wingless-related/MMTV-integration family of secreted growth factors, which are involved in a wide range of cellular processes. Wnt signaling can be broadly divided into two categories the canonical, β-catenin-dependent pathway and the non-canonical β-catenin-independent pathway. Wnt5a is a non-canonical signaling member of the Wnt family. Loss of Wnt5a is associated with early relapse of invasive breast cancer, increased metastasis, and poor survival in humans. It has been shown that TGF-β directly regulates expression of Wnt5a in mammary gland and that Wnt5a mediates the effects of TGF-β on branching during mammary gland development. Here we review the evidence suggesting Wnt5a acts as an effector of TGF-β actions in breast cancer. It is suggested that the tumor suppressive functions of TGF-β involve Wnt5a-mediated antagonism of Wnt/β-catenin signaling and limiting the stem cell population. Interactions between TGF-β and Wnt5a in metastasis appear to be more complex, and may depend on specific cues from the microenvironment as well as activation of specific intracellular signaling pathways.
Wnt5a; TGF-β; Mammary gland; Breast cancer; Stem cell; Migration; Metastasis
Cell-cell signaling regulated by retinoic acid (RA), Wnt/β-catenin, and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) is important during body axis extension, and interactions between these pathways have been suggested. At early somite stages, Wnt/β-catenin and FGF signaling domains exist both anterior and posterior to the developing trunk, whereas RA signaling occurs in between in the trunk under the control of the RA-synthesizing enzyme retinaldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (Raldh2). Previous studies demonstrated that vitamin A deficient quail embryos and Raldh2−/− mouse embryos lacking RA synthesis exhibit ectopic expression of Fgf8 and Wnt8a in the developing trunk. Here, we demonstrate that Raldh2−/− mouse embryos display an expansion of FGF signaling into the trunk monitored by Sprouty2 and Pea3 expression, and an expansion of Wnt/β-catenin signaling detected by expression of Axin2, Tbx6, Cdx2, and Cdx4. Following loss of RA signaling, the caudal expression domains of Fgf8, Wnt8a, and Wnt3a expand anteriorly into the trunk, but no change is observed in caudal expression of Fgf4 or Fgf17 plus caudal expression of Fgf18 and Cdx1 is reduced. These findings suggest that RA repression of Fgf8, Wnt8a, and Wnt3a in the developing trunk functions to down-regulate FGF signaling and Wnt/β-catenin signaling as the body axis extends.
Retinoic acid signaling; Wnt/β-catenin signaling; FGF signaling; Spry2; Pea3; Axin2; Fgf8; Wnt8a; Wnt3a; Tbx6; Cdx; axis extension
It has been two decades since investigators discovered the link between the Drosophila wingless (Wg) gene and the vertebrate oncogene int-1, thus establishing the family of signaling proteins known as Wnts. Since the inception of the Wnt signaling field, there have been 19 Wnt isoforms identified in humans. These secreted glycoproteins can activate at least two distinct signaling pathways in vertebrate cells, leading to cellular changes that regulate a vast array of biological processes, including embryonic development, cell fate, cell proliferation, cell migration, stem cell maintenance, tumor suppression, and oncogenesis. In certain contexts, one subset of Wnt isoforms activates the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway that is characterized by the activation of certain β-catenin-responsive target genes in response to the binding of Wnt ligand to its cognate receptors. Similarly, a second subset of Wnt isoforms activates β-catenin-independent pathways, including the Wnt/ calcium (Wnt/Ca) pathway and the Wnt/planar cell polarity (Wnt/PCP) pathway, in certain cellular contexts. In addition, research has identified several secreted proteins known to regulate Wnt signaling, including the Dickkopf (DKK) family, secreted Frizzled-related proteins (sFRPs), and Wnt inhibitory factor-1 (WIF-1). The advent of technologies that can provide genome-wide expression data continues to implicate Wnts and proteins that regulate Wnt signaling pathways in a growing number of disease processes. The aim of this review is to provide a context on the Wnt field that will facilitate the interpretation and study of Wnt signaling in the context of human disease.
Dishevelled (Dsh) is a phosphoprotein key to beta-catenin dependent (canonical) and beta-catenin independent (noncanonical) Wnt signaling. Whereas canonical Wnt signaling has been intensively studied in sea urchin development, little is known about other Wnt pathways. To examine roles of these beta-catenin independent pathways in embryogenesis, we used Dsh-DEP, a deletion construct blocking planar cell polarity (PCP) and Wnt/Ca2+ signaling. Embryos overexpressing Dsh-DEP failed to gastrulate or undergo skeletogenesis, but produced pigment cells. Although early mesodermal gene expression was largely unperturbed, embryos exhibited reduced expression of genes regulating endoderm specification and differentiation. Overexpressing activated beta-catenin failed to rescue Dsh-DEP embryos, indicating that Dsh-DEP blocks endoderm formation downstream of initial canonical Wnt signaling. Because Dsh-DEP-like constructs block PCP signaling in other metazoans, and disrupting RhoA or Fz 5/8 in echinoids blocks subsets of the Dsh-DEP phenotypes, our data suggest that noncanonical Wnt signaling is crucial for sea urchin endoderm formation and skeletogenesis. Developmental Dynamics 238:1649–1665, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Dishevelled; DEP; sea urchin; planar cell polarity; endoderm; Brachyury; GataE; Blimp1/Krox; gastrulation; Wnt
Wnt-1 homologs have been identified in invertebrates and vertebrates and play important roles in cellular differentiation and organization. In Drosophila, the products of the segment polarity genes wingless (the Wnt-1 homolog) and armadillo participate in a signal transduction pathway important for cellular boundary formation in embryonic development, but functional interactions between the proteins are unknown. We have examined Wnt-1 function in mammalian cells in which armadillo (beta-catenin and plakoglobin) is known to bind to and regulate cadherin cell adhesion proteins. We show that Wnt-1 expression results in the accumulation of beta-catenin and plakoglobin. In addition, binding of beta-catenin to the cell adhesion protein, cadherin, is stabilized, resulting in a concomitant increase in the strength of calcium-dependent cell-cell adhesion. Thus, a consequence of the functional interaction between Wnt-1 and armadillo family members is the strengthening of cell-cell adhesion, which may lead to the specification of cellular boundaries.
Recent studies in Drosophila identified pygopus, which encodes a PHD finger protein, as an additional nuclear component of the canonical Wingless(Wg)/Wnt signaling pathway. In this study, we describe the molecular cloning and expression analysis of a mouse pygopus gene, mpygo2. mpygo2 transcripts were detected in almost all adult mouse tissues examined, whereas transcripts of another mouse pygopus gene, mpygo1, were detected only in heart tissue. Abundant mpygo2 transcripts were observed during embryogenesis in multiple developmental sites. Consistent with the demonstrated role of the Wnt-β-catenin–LEF/TCF signaling pathway in mammalian skin development, mpygo2 expression was detected in the developing epidermis and hair follicles, which suggests that mpygo2 might mediate the effect of this signaling pathway in mouse skin.
Wg/Wnt signaling; β-Catenin; LEF/TCF; pygopus; mpygo2; mpygo1; Skin; Hair follicles
Precise control of Wnt/β-catenin signaling is critical for animal development, stem cell renewal, and prevention of disease. In the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the naked cuticle (nkd) gene limits signaling by the Wnt ligand Wingless (Wg) during embryo segmentation. Nkd is an intracellular protein that is composed of separable membrane- and nuclear-localization sequences (NLS) as well as a conserved EF-hand motif that binds the Wnt receptor-associated scaffold protein Dishevelled (Dsh), but the mechanism by which Nkd inhibits Wnt signaling remains a mystery. Here we identify a second NLS in Nkd that is required for full activity and that binds to the canonical nuclear import adaptor Importin-α3. The Nkd NLS is similar to the Importin-α3-binding NLS in the Drosophila heat shock transcription factor (dHSF), and each Importin-α3-binding NLS required intact basic residues in similar positions for nuclear import and protein function. Our results provide further support for the hypothesis that Nkd inhibits nuclear step(s) in Wnt/β-catenin signaling and broaden our understanding of signaling pathways that engage the nuclear import machinery.
Wnt; Wingless; Naked cuticle; Dishevelled; Importin-α3; Nuclear transport
Three different Wnt signaling pathways function to restrict the anterior neuroectoderm state to the anterior end of the sea urchin embryo, a mechanism of anterior fate restriction that could be conserved among deuterostomes.
Patterning the neuroectoderm along the anterior–posterior (AP) axis is a critical event in the early development of deuterostome embryos. However, the mechanisms that regulate the specification and patterning of the neuroectoderm are incompletely understood. Remarkably, the anterior neuroectoderm (ANE) of the deuterostome sea urchin embryo expresses many of the same transcription factors and secreted modulators of Wnt signaling, as does the early vertebrate ANE (forebrain/eye field). Moreover, as is the case in vertebrate embryos, confining the ANE to the anterior end of the embryo requires a Wnt/β-catenin-dependent signaling mechanism. Here we use morpholino- or dominant negative-mediated interference to demonstrate that the early sea urchin embryo integrates information not only from Wnt/β-catenin but also from Wnt/Fzl5/8-JNK and Fzl1/2/7-PKC pathways to provide precise spatiotemporal control of neuroectoderm patterning along its AP axis. Together, through the Wnt1 and Wnt8 ligands, they orchestrate a progressive posterior-to-anterior wave of re-specification that restricts the initial, ubiquitous, maternally specified, ANE regulatory state to the most anterior blastomeres. There, the Wnt receptor antagonist, Dkk1, protects this state through a negative feedback mechanism. Because these different Wnt pathways converge on the same cell fate specification process, our data suggest they may function as integrated components of an interactive Wnt signaling network. Our findings provide strong support for the idea that the sea urchin ANE regulatory state and the mechanisms that position and define its borders represent an ancient regulatory patterning system that was present in the common echinoderm/vertebrate ancestor.
The initial regulatory state of most cells in many deuterostome embryos, including those of vertebrates and sea urchins, supports anterior neural fate specification. It is important to restrict this neurogenic potential to the anterior end of the embryo during early embryogenesis, but the molecular mechanisms by which this re-specification of posterior fate occurs are incompletely understood in any embryo. The sea urchin embryo is ideally suited to study this process because, in contrast to vertebrates, anterior–posterior neuroectoderm patterning occurs independently of dorsal-ventral axis patterning and takes place before the complex cell movements of gastrulation. In this study, we show that a linked, three-step process involving at least three different Wnt signaling pathways provides precise spatiotemporal restriction of the anterior neuroectoderm regulatory state to the anterior end of the sea urchin embryo. Because these three pathways impinge on the same developmental process, they could be functioning as an integrated Wnt signaling network. Moreover, striking parallels among gene expression patterns and functional studies suggest that this mechanism of anterior fate restriction could be highly conserved among deuterostomes.
The notochord develops from notochord progenitor cells (NPCs) and functions as a major signaling center to regulate trunk and tail development. NPCs are initially specified in the node by Wnt and Nodal signals at the gastrula stage. However, the underlying mechanism that maintains the NPCs throughout embryogenesis to contribute to the posterior extension of the notochord remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that Wnt signaling in the NPCs is essential for posterior extension of the notochord. Genetic labeling revealed that the Noto-expressing cells in the ventral node contribute the NPCs that reside in the tail bud. Robust Wnt signaling in the NPCs was observed during posterior notochord extension. Genetic attenuation of the Wnt signal via notochord-specific β-catenin gene ablation resulted in posterior truncation of the notochord. In the NPCs of such mutant embryos, the expression of notochord-specific genes was down-regulated, and an endodermal marker, E-cadherin, was observed. No significant alteration of cell proliferation or apoptosis of the NPCs was detected. Taken together, our data indicate that the NPCs are derived from Noto-positive node cells, and are not fully committed to a notochordal fate. Sustained Wnt signaling is required to maintain the NPCs’ notochordal fate.
Notochord; progenitor cells; Wnt; β-catenin; cell fate specification; CreER; lineage tracing
Drosophila “gap” genes provide the first response to maternal gradients in the early fly embryo. Gap genes are expressed in a series of broad bands across the embryo during first hours of development. The gene network controlling the gap gene expression patterns includes inputs from maternal gradients and mutual repression between the gap genes themselves. In this study we propose a modular design for the gap gene network, involving two relatively independent network domains. The core of each network domain includes a toggle switch corresponding to a pair of mutually repressive gap genes, operated in space by maternal inputs. The toggle switches present in the gap network are evocative of the phage lambda switch, but they are operated positionally (in space) by the maternal gradients, so the synthesis rates for the competing components change along the embryo anterior-posterior axis. Dynamic model, constructed based on the proposed principle, with elements of fractional site occupancy, required 5–7 parameters to fit quantitative spatial expression data for gap gradients. The identified model solutions (parameter combinations) reproduced major dynamic features of the gap gradient system and explained gap expression in a variety of segmentation mutants.