Wnt11 is a key signal, determining cell polarization and migration during vertebrate gastrulation. It is known that Wnt11 functionally interacts with several signaling components, the homologues of which control planar cell polarity in Drosophila melanogaster. Although in D. melanogaster these components are thought to polarize cells by asymmetrically localizing at the plasma membrane, it is not yet clear whether their subcellular localization plays a similarly important role in vertebrates. We show that in zebrafish embryonic cells, Wnt11 locally functions at the plasma membrane by accumulating its receptor, Frizzled 7, on adjacent sites of cell contacts. Wnt11-induced Frizzled 7 accumulations recruit the intracellular Wnt signaling mediator Dishevelled, as well as Wnt11 itself, and locally increase cell contact persistence. This increase in cell contact persistence is mediated by the local interaction of Wnt11, Frizzled 7, and the atypical cadherin Flamingo at the plasma membrane, and it does not require the activity of further downstream effectors of Wnt11 signaling, such as RhoA and Rok2. We propose that Wnt11, by interacting with Frizzled 7 and Flamingo, modulates local cell contact persistence to coordinate cell movements during gastrulation.
Cadherins are transmembrane proteins that mediate cell–cell adhesion in animals. By regulating contact formation and stability, cadherins play a crucial role in tissue morphogenesis and homeostasis. Here, we review the three major functions of cadherins in cell–cell contact formation and stability. Two of those functions lead to a decrease in interfacial tension at the forming cell–cell contact, thereby promoting contact expansion — first, by providing adhesion tension that lowers interfacial tension at the cell–cell contact, and second, by signaling to the actomyosin cytoskeleton in order to reduce cortex tension and thus interfacial tension at the contact. The third function of cadherins in cell–cell contact formation is to stabilize the contact by resisting mechanical forces that pull on the contact.
The process of gastrulation is highly conserved across vertebrates on both the genetic and morphological levels, despite great variety in embryonic shape and speed of development. This mechanism spatially separates the germ layers and establishes the organizational foundation for future development. Mesodermal identity is specified in a superficial layer of cells, the epiblast, where cells maintain an epithelioid morphology. These cells involute to join the deeper hypoblast layer where they adopt a migratory, mesenchymal morphology. Expression of a cascade of related transcription factors orchestrates the parallel genetic transition from primitive to mature mesoderm. Although the early and late stages of this process are increasingly well understood, the transition between them has remained largely mysterious. We present here the first high resolution in vivo observations of the blebby transitional morphology of involuting mesodermal cells in a vertebrate embryo. We further demonstrate that the zebrafish spadetail mutation creates a reversible block in the maturation program, stalling cells in the transition state. This mutation creates an ideal system for dissecting the specific properties of cells undergoing the morphological transition of maturing mesoderm, as we demonstrate with a direct measurement of cell-cell adhesion.
Mesoderm; Gastrulation; Involution; Adhesion; Bleb; spadetail; Cadherin; Myosin
► In this review, we describe the role of adhesion energy in cell–cell adhesion. ► We review recent advances in elucidating the molecular and cellular basis of adhesion energy. ► We propose both experimental and theoretical strategies to determine adhesion energy between cells in vitro and in vivo.
Recent advances in microscopy techniques and biophysical measurements have provided novel insight into the molecular, cellular and biophysical basis of cell adhesion. However, comparably little is known about a core element of cell–cell adhesion—the energy of adhesion at the cell–cell contact. In this review, we discuss approaches to understand the nature and regulation of adhesion energy, and propose strategies to determine adhesion energy between cells in vitro and in vivo.
Vertebrate embryos display a predominant head-to-tail body axis whose formation is associated with the progressive development of post-cranial structures from a pool of caudal undifferentiated cells. This involves the maintenance of active FGF signaling in this caudal region as a consequence of the restricted production of the secreted factor FGF8. FGF8 is transcribed specifically in the caudal precursor region and is down-regulated as cells differentiate and the embryo extends caudally. We are interested in understanding the progressive down-regulation of FGF8 and its coordination with the caudal movement of cells which is also known to be FGF-signaling dependent. Our study is performed using mathematical modeling and computer simulations. We use an individual-based hybrid model as well as a caricature continuous model for the simulation of experimental observations (ours and those known from the literature) in order to examine possible mechanisms that drive differentiation and cell movement during the axis elongation. Using these models we have identified a possible gene regulatory network involving self-repression of a caudal morphogen coupled to directional domain movement that may account for progressive down-regulation of FGF8 and conservation of the FGF8 domain of expression. Furthermore, we have shown that chemotaxis driven by molecules, such as FGF8 secreted in the stem zone, could underlie the migration of the caudal precursor zone and, therefore, embryonic axis extension. These mechanisms may also be at play in other developmental processes displaying a similar mode of axis extension coupled to cell differentiation.
In the initial phase of development of fish embryos, a prominent and critical event is the midblastula transition (MBT). Before MBT cell cycle is rapid, highly synchronous and zygotic gene transcription is turned off. Only during MBT the cell cycle desynchronizes and transcription is activated. Multiple mechanisms, primarily the nucleocytoplasmic ratio, are supposed to control MBT activation. Unexpectedly, we find in the small teleost fish medaka (Oryzias latipes) that at very early stages, well before midblastula, cell division becomes asynchronous and cell volumes diverge. Furthermore, zygotic transcription is extensively activated already after the 64-cell stage. Thus, at least in medaka, the transition from maternal to zygotic transcription is uncoupled from the midblastula stage and not solely controlled by the nucleocytoplasmic ratio.
Analysis of cell migration in vivo combined with biophysical measurements reveals how membrane-to-cortex attachment fine-tunes the type of protrusions formed by cells and, as a consequence, controls directed migration during zebrafish gastrulation.
Cell shape and motility are primarily controlled by cellular mechanics. The attachment of the plasma membrane to the underlying actomyosin cortex has been proposed to be important for cellular processes involving membrane deformation. However, little is known about the actual function of membrane-to-cortex attachment (MCA) in cell protrusion formation and migration, in particular in the context of the developing embryo. Here, we use a multidisciplinary approach to study MCA in zebrafish mesoderm and endoderm (mesendoderm) germ layer progenitor cells, which migrate using a combination of different protrusion types, namely, lamellipodia, filopodia, and blebs, during zebrafish gastrulation. By interfering with the activity of molecules linking the cortex to the membrane and measuring resulting changes in MCA by atomic force microscopy, we show that reducing MCA in mesendoderm progenitors increases the proportion of cellular blebs and reduces the directionality of cell migration. We propose that MCA is a key parameter controlling the relative proportions of different cell protrusion types in mesendoderm progenitors, and thus is key in controlling directed migration during gastrulation.
Cell migration, like any event involving shape changes, is a mechanical process controlled by complex biochemical pathways. Here, we examine cell migration in developing embryos with a combination of cell biological tools and atomic force microscopy, so as to investigate how cellular mechanical properties control migration. A fundamental step during migration is the formation of a protrusion at the leading edge of the cell. In three-dimensional environments, and particularly in vivo, cells use different protrusion types: spike-like filopodia and flattened lamellipodia, whose growth is driven by actin polymerization, and spherical blebs, which grow because of intracellular pressure pushing on the membrane. It is important to understand how the formation of different protrusion types is mechanically and molecularly controlled, and how the different protrusions specifically contribute to migration. We have addressed this using the zebrafish embryo as a model system. We show that reducing the strength of the attachment between the plasma membrane and the underlying cortical network of actin filaments, or increasing intracellular pressure, increases the proportion of cellular blebs and reduces the directionality of cell migration. Our work reveals that blebs, lamellipodia, and filopodia are not interchangeable and that the relative proportion of each type of protrusion, under the control of mechanical parameters, determines migration directionality during zebrafish gastrulation.
In this study, we elucidate the roles of the winged-helix transcription factor Foxa2 in ventral CNS development in zebrafish. Through cloning of monorail (mol), which we find encodes the transcription factor Foxa2, and phenotypic analysis of mol-/- embryos, we show that floorplate is induced in the absence of Foxa2 function but fails to further differentiate. In mol-/- mutants, expression of Foxa and Hh family genes is not maintained in floorplate cells and lateral expansion of the floorplate fails to occur. Our results suggest that this is due to defects both in the regulation of Hh activity in medial floorplate cells as well as cell-autonomous requirements for Foxa2 in the prospective laterally positioned floorplate cells themselves.
Foxa2 is also required for induction and/or patterning of several distinct cell types in the ventral CNS. Serotonergic neurones of the raphé nucleus and the trochlear motor nucleus are absent in mol-/- embryos, and oculomotor and facial motoneurones ectopically occupy ventral CNS midline positions in the midbrain and hindbrain. There is also a severe reduction of prospective oligodendrocytes in the midbrain and hindbrain. Finally, in the absence of Foxa2, at least two likely Hh pathway target genes are ectopically expressed in more dorsal regions of the midbrain and hindbrain ventricular neuroepithelium, raising the possibility that Foxa2 activity may normally be required to limit the range of action of secreted Hh proteins.
Midline development; Hedgehog signalling; Zebrafish
Summary of recent advances
Animal body plan arises during gastrulation and organogenesis by the coordination of inductive events and cell movements. Several signaling pathways, such as BMP, FGF, Hedgehog, Nodal and Wnt, have well recognized instructive roles in cell fate specification during vertebrate embryogenesis. Growing evidence indicates that BMP, Nodal and FGF signaling also regulate cell movements, and that they do so through mechanisms distinct from those that specify cell fates. Moreover, pathways controlling cell movements can also indirectly influence cell fate specification by regulating dimensions and relative positions of interacting tissues. The current challenge is to delineate the molecular mechanisms via which the major signaling pathways regulate cell fate specification and movements, and how these two processes are coordinated to ensure normal development.
This study provides direct functional evidence that differential adhesion, measurable as quantitative differences in tissue surface tension, influences spatial positioning between zebrafish germ layer tissues. We show that embryonic ectodermal and mesendodermal tissues generated by mRNA-overexpression behave on long-time scales like immiscible fluids. When mixed in hanging drop culture, their cells segregate into discrete phases with ectoderm adopting an internal position relative to the mesendoderm. The position adopted directly correlates with differences in tissue surface tension. We also show that germ layer tissues from untreated embryos, when extirpated and placed in culture, adopt a configuration similar to those of their mRNA-overexpressing counterparts. Down-regulating E-cadherin expression in the ectoderm leads to reduced surface tension and results in phase reversal with E-cadherin-depleted ectoderm cells now adopting an external position relative to the mesendoderm. These results show that in vitro cell sorting of zebrafish mesendoderm and ectoderm tissues is specified by tissue interfacial tensions. We perform a mathematical analysis indicating that tissue interfacial tension between actively motile cells contributes to the spatial organization and dynamics of these zebrafish germ layers in vivo.
Cell polarity is an essential feature of animal cells contributing to morphogenesis. During Xenopus gastrulation, it is known that chordamesoderm cells are polarized and intercalate each other allowing anterior-posterior elongation of the embryo proper by convergent extension (CE). Although it is well known that the cellular protrusions at both ends of polarized cells exert tractive force for intercalation and that PCP pathway is known to be essential for the cell polarity, little is known about what triggers the cell polarization and what the polarization causes to control intracellular events enabling the intercalation that leads to the CE. In our research, we used EB3 (end-binding 3), a member of +TIPs that bind to the plus end of microtubule (MT), to visualize the intracellular polarity of chordamesoderm cells during CE to investigate the trigger of the establishment of cell polarity. We found that EB3 movement is polarized in chordamesoderm cells and that the notochord-somite tissue boundary plays an essential role in generating the cell polarity. This polarity was generated before the change of cell morphology and the polarized movement of EB3 in chordamesoderm cells was also observed near the boundary between the chordamesoderm tissue and naïve ectoderm tissue or lateral mesoderm tissues induced by a low concentration of nodal mRNA. These suggest that definitive tissue separation established by the distinct levels of nodal signaling is essential for the chordamesodermal cells to acquire mediolateral cell polarity.
Mitochondrial ribosomal RNAs (mtrRNAs) have been reported to translocate extra-mitochondrially and localize to the germ cell determinant of oocytes and zygotes in some metazoa except mammals. To address whether the mtrRNAs also localize in the mammals, expression and distribution of mitochondrion-encoded RNAs in the mouse oocytes and zygotes was examined by whole-mount in situ hybridization (ISH). Both 12S and 16S rRNAs were predominantly distributed in the animal hemisphere of the mature oocyte. This distribution pattern was rearranged toward the second polar body in zygotes after fertilization. The amount of mtrRNAs decreased around first cleavage, remained low during second cleavage and increased after third cleavage. Staining intensity of the 12S rRNA was weaker than that of the 16S rRNA throughout the examined stages. Similar distribution dynamics of the 16S rRNA was observed in strontium-activated haploid parthenotes, suggesting the distribution rearrangement does not require a component from sperm. The distribution of 16S rRNAs did not coincide with that of mitochondrion-specific heat shock protein 70, suggesting that the mtrRNA is translocated from mitochondria. The ISH-scanning electron microscopy confirms the extra-mitochondrial mtrRNA in the mouse oocyte. Chloramphenicol (CP) treatment of late pronuclear stage zygotes perturbed first cleavage as judged by the greater than normal disparity in size of blastomeres of 2-cell conceptuses. Two-third of the CP-treated zygotes arrested at either 2-cell or 3-cell stage even after the CP was washed out. These findings indicate that the extra-mitochondrial mtrRNAs are localized in the mouse oocyte and implicated in correct cytoplasmic segregation into blastomeres through cleavages of the zygote.
The Ewing sarcoma breakpoint region 1 gene (EWSR1), also known as EWS, is fused to a number of different partner genes as a result of chromosomal translocation in diverse sarcomas. Despite the involvement of EWSR1 in these diverse sarcomas, the in vivo function of wild type EWSR1 remains unclear.
We identified two zebrafish EWSR1 orthologues, ewsr1a and ewsr1b, and demonstrate that both genes are expressed maternally, and are expressed ubiquitously throughout zebrafish embryonic development. Morpholino induced knockdown of both zebrafish ewsr1 genes led to mitotic defects with multipolar or otherwise abnormal mitotic spindles starting from the bud stage (10 hour post-fertilization (hpf)). The abnormalities in mitotic spindles were followed by p53-mediated apoptosis in the developing central nervous system (CNS) leading to a reduction in the number of proneural cells, disorganization of neuronal networks, and embryonic lethality by 5 days post-fertilization. siRNA silencing of EWSR1 in Hela cells resulted in mitotic defects accompanied by apoptotic cell death, indicating that the role of EWSR1 is conserved between zebrafish and human.
Ewsr1 maintains mitotic integrity and proneural cell survival in early zebrafish development.
Zebrafish embryos homozygous for the masterblind (mbl) mutation exhibit a striking phenotype in which the eyes and telencephalon are reduced or absent and diencephalic fates expand to the front of the brain. Here we show that mbl−/− embryos carry an amino-acid change at a conserved site in the Wnt pathway scaffolding protein, Axin1. The amino-acid substitution present in the mbl allele abolishes the binding of Axin to Gsk3 and affects Tcf-dependent transcription. Therefore, Gsk3 activity may be decreased in mbl−/− embryos and in support of this possibility, overexpression of either wild-type Axin1 or Gsk3β can restore eye and telencephalic fates to mbl−/− embryos. Our data reveal a crucial role for Axin1-dependent inhibition of the Wnt pathway in the early regional subdivision of the anterior neural plate into telencephalic, diencephalic, and eye-forming territories.
Axin; Wnt; forebrain; zebrafish
Partial reduction of Hsp90 increases expression of morphological novelty in qualitative traits of Drosophila and Arabidopsis, but the extent to which the Hsp90 chaperone also controls smaller and more likely adaptive changes in natural quantitative traits has been unclear. To determine the effect of Hsp90 on quantitative trait variability we deconstructed genetic, stochastic and environmental components of variation in Drosophila wing and bristle traits of genetically matched flies, differing only by Hsp90 loss-of-function or wild-type alleles. Unexpectedly, Hsp90 buffering was remarkably specific to certain normally invariant and highly discrete quantitative traits. Like the qualitative trait phenotypes controlled by Hsp90, highly discrete quantitative traits such as scutellor and thoracic bristle number are threshold traits. When tested across genotypes sampled from a wild population or in laboratory strains, the sensitivity of these traits to many types of variation was coordinately controlled, while continuously variable bristle types and wing size, and critically invariant left-right wing asymmetry, remained relatively unaffected. Although increased environmental variation and developmental noise would impede many types of selection response, in replicate populations in which Hsp90 was specifically impaired, heritability and ‘extrinsic evolvability’, the expected response to selection, were also markedly increased. However, despite the overall buffering effect of Hsp90 on variation in populations, for any particular individual or genotype in which Hsp90 was impaired, the size and direction of its effects were unpredictable. The trait and genetic-background dependence of Hsp90 effects and its remarkable bias toward invariant or canalized traits support the idea that traits evolve independent and trait-specific mechanisms of canalization and evolvability through their evolution of non-linearity and thresholds. Highly non-linear responses would buffer variation in Hsp90-dependent signaling over a wide range, while over a narrow range of signaling near trait thresholds become more variable with increasing probability of triggering all-or-none developmental responses.
Hsp90 controls dramatic phenotypic transitions in a wide array of morphological features of many organisms. The genetic-background dependence of specific abnormalities and their response to laboratory selection suggested Hsp90 could be an ‘evolutionary capacitor’, allowing developmental variation to accumulate as neutral alleles under normal conditions and manifest selectable morphological differences during environmental stress. The relevance of Hsp90-buffered variation for evolution has been most often challenged by the idea that large morphological changes controlled by Hsp90 are unconditionally deleterious. To address this issue, we tested an Hsp90-buffered abnormality in Drosophila for unselected pleiotropic effects and correlated fitness costs. Up to 120-fold differences in penetrance among six highly related selection lines, started from an initially small number of flies and rapidly selected for and against a deformed eye trait (dfe), did not translate into measurable differences in any of several tests of viability, lifespan or competitive fitness. Nor were 17 dfe Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) associated with fitness effects in over 1,400 recombinant lines. Our ability to detect measurable effects of inbreeding, media environment and the white mutation in the selection line backgrounds independent of dfe penetrance suggests that, within the limitations of laboratory tests of fitness, this large morphological change controlled by Hsp90 was selectable independent of strong, correlated and unconditionally deleterious effects—abundant, polygenic variation hidden by Hsp90 allows potentially deleterious alleles to be readily replaced during selection by less deleterious alleles with similar phenotypic effects. Hsp90 links environmental stress with the expression of developmental variation controlling unprecedented morphological plasticity. As outlined here and in the companion paper of this issue, the complex genetic architecture of Hsp90-buffered variation supports a remarkable modularity of Hsp90 effects on quantitative and qualitative phenotypes, consistent with the ‘Hsp90 capacitor hypothesis’ and standard quantitative genetic models of threshold traits.
During vertebrate gastrulation, highly coordinated cellular rearrangements lead to the formation of the three germ layers, ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm. In zebrafish, silberblick (slb)/wnt11 regulates normal gastrulation movements by activating a signalling pathway similar to the Frizzled-signalling pathway, which establishes epithelial planar cell polarity (PCP) in Drosophila. However, the cellular mechanisms by which slb/wnt11 functions during zebrafish gastrulation are still unclear. Using high-resolution two-photon confocal imaging followed by computer-assisted reconstruction and motion analysis, we have analysed the movement and morphology of individual cells in three dimensions during the course of gastrulation. We show that in slb-mutant embryos, hypoblast cells within the forming germ ring have slower, less directed migratory movements at the onset of gastrulation. These aberrant cell movements are accompanied by defects in the orientation of cellular processes along the individual movement directions of these cells. We conclude that slb/wnt11-mediated orientation of cellular processes plays a role in facilitating and stabilising movements of hypoblast cells in the germ ring, thereby pointing at a novel function of the slb/wnt11 signalling pathway for the regulation of migratory cell movements at early stages of gastrulation.
Wnt signalling; Cell migration; Gastrulation; Zebrafish
Zebrafish (D. rerio) has become a powerful and widely used model system for the analysis of vertebrate embryogenesis and organ development. While genetic methods are readily available in zebrafish, protocols for two dimensional (2D) gel electrophoresis and proteomics have yet to be developed.
As a prerequisite to carry out proteomic experiments with early zebrafish embryos, we developed a method to efficiently remove the yolk from large batches of embryos. This method enabled high resolution 2D gel electrophoresis and improved Western blotting considerably. Here, we provide detailed protocols for proteomics in zebrafish from sample preparation to mass spectrometry (MS), including a comparison of databases for MS identification of zebrafish proteins.
The provided protocols for proteomic analysis of early embryos enable research to be taken in novel directions in embryogenesis.
During gastrulation in the mouse embryo, dynamic cell movements including epiblast invagination and mesodermal layer expansion lead to the establishment of the three-layered body plan. The precise details of these movements, however, are sometimes elusive, because of the limitations in live imaging. To overcome this problem, we developed techniques to enable observation of living mouse embryos with digital scanned light sheet microscope (DSLM). The achieved deep and high time-resolution images of GFP-expressing nuclei and following 3D tracking analysis revealed the following findings: (i) Interkinetic nuclear migration (INM) occurs in the epiblast at embryonic day (E)6 and 6.5. (ii) INM-like migration occurs in the E5.5 embryo, when the epiblast is a monolayer and not yet pseudostratified. (iii) Primary driving force for INM at E6.5 is not pressure from neighboring nuclei. (iv) Mesodermal cells migrate not as a sheet but as individual cells without coordination.
What governs tissue organization and movement? If molecular and genetic approaches are able to give some answers on these issues, more and more works are now giving a real importance to mechanics as a key component eventually triggering further signaling events. We chose embryonic cell aggregates as model systems for tissue organization and movement in order to investigate the origin of some mechanical constraints arising from cells organization. Steinberg et al. proposed a long time ago an analogy between liquids and tissues and showed that indeed tissues possess a measurable tissue surface tension and viscosity. We question here the molecular origin of these parameters and give a quantitative measurement of adhesion versus contractility in the framework of the differential interfacial tension hypothesis. Accompanying surface tension measurements by angle measurements (at vertexes of cell-cell contacts) at the cell/medium interface, we are able to extract the full parameters of this model: cortical tensions and adhesion energy. We show that a tunable surface tension and viscosity can be achieved easily through the control of cell-cell contractility compared to cell-medium one. Moreover we show that -catenin is crucial for this regulation to occur: these molecules appear as a catalyser for the remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton underneath cell-cell contact, enabling a differential contractility between the cell-medium and cell-cell interface to take place.
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) has a remarkable capacity to regenerate many organs and tissues. During larval stages the fin fold allows the possibility of performing long time-lapse imaging making this system very appealing to study the relationships between tissue movements, cell migration and proliferation necessary for the regeneration process.
Through the combined use of transgenic fluorescently-labeled animals and confocal microscopy imaging, we characterized in vivo the complete fin fold regeneration process. We show, for the first time, that there is an increase in the global rate of epidermal growth as a response to tissue loss. Also enhanced significantly is cell proliferation, which upon amputation happens in a broad area concerning the amputation level and not in a blastema-restricted way. This reveals a striking difference with regard to the adult fin regeneration system. Finally, an accumulation of migratory, shape-changing fibroblasts occurs proximally to the wound area, resembling a blastemal-like structure, which may act as a signaling center for the regeneration process to proceed.
These findings provide a novel in vivo description of fundamental mechanisms occurring during the fin fold regeneration process, thereby contributing to a better knowledge of this regenerative system and to reveal variations in the epimorphic regeneration field.
Various signaling pathways regulate shaping of the main body axis during early vertebrate development. Here, we focused on the role of protein-tyrosine phosphatase signaling in convergence and extension cell movements. We identified Ptpn20 as a structural paralogue of PTP-BL and both phosphatases were required for normal gastrulation cell movements. Interestingly, knockdowns of PTP-BL and Ptpn20 evoked similar developmental defects as knockdown of RPTPα and PTPε. Co-knockdown of RPTPα and PTP-BL, but not Ptpn20, had synergistic effects and conversely, PTPε and Ptpn20, but not PTP-BL, cooperated, demonstrating the specificity of our approach. RPTPα and PTPε knockdowns were rescued by constitutively active RhoA, whereas PTP-BL and Ptpn20 knockdowns were rescued by dominant negative RhoA. Consistently, RPTPα and PTP-BL had opposite effects on RhoA activation, both in a PTP-dependent manner. Downstream of the PTPs, we identified NGEF and Arhgap29, regulating RhoA activation and inactivation, respectively, in convergence and extension cell movements. We propose a model in which two phosphatases activate RhoA and two phosphatases inhibit RhoA, resulting in proper cell polarization and normal convergence and extension cell movements.
Different models for animal cell cytokinesis posit that the stiffness of the equatorial cortex is either increased or decreased relative to the stiffness of the polar cortex. A recent work has suggested that the critical cytokinesis signaling complex centralspindlin may reduce the stiffness of the equatorial cortex by inactivating the small GTPase Rac. To determine if such a reduction occurs and if it depends on centralspindlin, we devised a method to estimate cortical bending stiffness with high spatio-temporal resolution from in vivo cell shapes. Using the early Caenorhabditis elegans embryo as a model, we show that the stiffness of the equatorial cell surface is reduced during cytokinesis, whereas the stiffness of the polar cell surface remains stiff. The equatorial reduction of stiffness was compromised in cells with a mutation in the gene encoding the ZEN-4/kinesin-6 subunit of centralspindlin. Theoretical modeling showed that the absence of the equatorial reduction of stiffness could explain the arrest of furrow ingression in the mutant. By contrast, the equatorial reduction of stiffness was sufficient to generate a cleavage furrow even without the constriction force of the contractile ring. In this regime, the contractile ring had a supportive contribution to furrow ingression. We conclude that stiffness is reduced around the equator in a centralspindlin-dependent manner. In addition, computational modeling suggests that proper regulation of stiffness could be sufficient for cleavage furrow ingression.
Epithelia act as physical barriers protecting living organisms and their organs from the surrounding environment. Simple epithelial tissues have the capacity to efficiently repair wounds through a resealing mechanism. The known molecular mechanisms underlying this process appear to be conserved in both vertebrates and invertebrates, namely the involvement of the transcription factors Grainy head (Grh) and Fos. In Drosophila, Grh and Fos lead to the activation of wound response genes required for epithelial repair. ERK is upstream of this pathway and known to be one of the first kinases to be activated upon wounding. However, it is still unclear how ERK activation contributes to a proper wound response and which molecular mechanisms regulate its activation.
In a previous screen, we isolated mutants with defects in wound healing. Here, we describe the role of one of these genes, hole-in-one (holn1), in the wound healing process. Holn1 is a GYF domain containing protein that we found to be required for the activation of several Grh and Fos regulated wound response genes at the wound site. We also provide evidence suggesting that Holn1 may be involved in the Ras/ERK signaling pathway, by acting downstream of ERK. Finally, we show that wound healing requires the function of EGFR and ERK signaling.
Based on these data, we conclude that holn1 is a novel gene required for a proper wound healing response. We further propose and discuss a model whereby Holn1 acts downstream of EGFR and ERK signaling in the Grh/Fos mediated wound closure pathway.
In the embryonic neural plate, a subset of precursor cells with neurogenic potential differentiates into neurons. This process of primary neurogenesis requires both the specification of cells for neural differentiation, regulated by Notch signaling, and the activity of neurogenic transcription factors such as neurogenin and NeuroD which drive the program of neural gene expression. Here we study the role of Hes6, a member of the hairy enhancer of split family of transcription factors, in primary neurogenesis in Xenopus embryos. Hes6 is an atypical Hes gene in that it is not regulated by Notch signaling and promotes neural differentiation in mouse cell culture models. We show that depletion of Xenopus Hes6 (Xhes6) by morpholino antisense oligonucleotides results in a failure of neural differentiation, a phenotype rescued by both wild type Xhes6 and a Xhes6 mutant unable to bind DNA. However, an Xhes6 mutant that lacks the ability to bind Groucho/TLE transcriptional co-regulators is only partly able to rescue the phenotype. Further analysis reveals that Xhes6 is essential for the induction of neurons by both neurogenin and NeuroD, acting via at least two distinct mechanisms, the inhibition of antineurogenic Xhairy proteins and by interaction with Groucho/TLE family proteins. We conclude Xhes6 is essential for neurogenesis in vivo, acting via multiple mechanisms to relieve inhibition of proneural transcription factor activity within the neural plate.