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1.  Ankrd6 is a mammalian functional homolog of Drosophila planar cell polarity gene diego and regulates coordinated cellular orientation in the mouse inner ear 
Developmental biology  2014;395(1):62-72.
The coordinated polarization of neighboring cells within the plane of the tissue, known as planar cell polarity (PCP), is a recurring theme in biology. It is required for numerous developmental processes for the form and function of many tissues and organs across species. The genetic pathway regulating PCP was first discovered in Drosophila, and an analogous but distinct pathway is emerging in vertebrates. It consists of membrane protein complexes known as core PCP proteins that are conserved across species. Here we report that the over-expression of the murine Ankrd6 (mAnkrd6) gene that shares homology with Drosophila core PCP gene diego causes a typical PCP phenotype in Drosophila, and mAnkrd6 can rescue the loss of function of diego in Drosophila. In mice, mAnkrd6 protein is asymmetrically localized in cells of the inner ear sensory organs, characteristic of components of conserved core PCP complexes. The loss of mAnkrd6 causes PCP defects in the inner ear sensory organs. Moreover, canonical Wnt signaling is significantly increased in mouse embryonic fibroblasts from mAnkrd6 knockout mice in comparison to wild type controls. Together, these results indicated that mAnkrd6 is a functional homolog of the Drosophila diego gene for mammalian PCP regulation and act to suppress canonical Wnt signaling.
PMCID: PMC4837453  PMID: 25218921
PCP; Inner Ear; Ankrd6; Diversin; Inversin; Diego
2.  Cre recombinase-regulated Endothelin1 transgenic mouse lines: novel tools for analysis of embryonic and adult disorders 
Developmental biology  2015;400(2):191-201.
Endothelin-1 (EDN1) influences both craniofacial and cardiovascular development and a number of adult physiological conditions by binding to one or both of the known endothelin receptors, thus initiating multiple signaling cascades. Animal models containing both conventional and conditional loss of the Edn1 gene have been used to dissect EDN1 function in both embryos and adults. However, while transgenic Edn1 over-expression or targeted genomic insertion of Edn1 has been performed to understand how elevated levels of Edn1 result in or exacerbate disease states, an animal model in which Edn1 over-expression can be achieved in a spatiotemporal-specific manner has not been reported. Here we describe the creation of Edn1 conditional over-expression transgenic mouse lines in which the chicken β-actin promoter and an Edn1 cDNA are separated by a strong stop sequence flanked by loxP sites. In the presence of Cre, the stop cassette is removed, leading to Edn1 expression. Using the Wnt1-Cre strain, in which Cre expression is targeted to the Wnt1-expressing domain of the central nervous system (CNS) from which neural crest cells (NCCs) arise, we show that stable CBA-Edn1 transgenic lines with varying EDN1 protein levels develop defects in NCC-derived tissues of the face, though the severity differs between lines. We also show that Edn1 expression can be achieved in other embryonic tissues utilizing other Cre strains, with this expression also resulting in developmental defects. CBA-Edn1 transgenic mice will be useful in investigating diverse aspects of EDN1-mediated-development and disease, including understanding how NCCs achieve and maintain a positional and functional identity and how aberrant EDN1 levels can lead to multiple physiological changes and diseases.
PMCID: PMC4385399  PMID: 25725491
neural crest cell; hypertension; craniofacial; endothelin-A receptor; craniofacial
3.  Integration of comprehensive 3D microCT and signaling analysis reveals differential regulatory mechanisms of craniofacial bone development 
Developmental biology  2015;400(2):180-190.
Growth factor signaling regulates tissue-tissue interactions to control organogenesis and tissue homeostasis. Specifically, transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signaling plays a crucial role in the development of cranial neural crest (CNC) cell–derived bone, and loss of Tgfbr2 in CNC cells results in craniofacial skeletal malformations. Our recent studies indicate that non-canonical TGFβ signaling is activated whereas canonical TGFβ signaling is compromised in the absence of Tgfbr2 (in Tgfbr2fl/fl;Wnt1-Cre mice). A haploinsufficiency of Tgfbr1 (aka Alk5) (Tgfbr2fl/fl;Wnt1-Cre;Alk5fl/+) largely rescues craniofacial deformities in Tgfbr2 mutant mice by reducing ectopic non-canonical TGFβ signaling. However, the relative involvement of canonical and non-canonical TGFβ signaling in regulating specific craniofacial bone formation remains unclear. We compared the size and volume of CNC–derived craniofacial bones (frontal bone, premaxilla, maxilla, palatine bone, and mandible) from E18.5 control, Tgfbr2fl/fl;Wnt1-Cre, and Tgfbr2fl/fl;Wnt1-Cre;Alk5fl/+ mice. By analyzing three dimensional (3D) micro-computed tomography (microCT) images, we found that different craniofacial bones were restored to different degrees in Tgfbr2fl/fl;Wnt1-Cre;Alk5fl/+ mice. Our study provides comprehensive information on anatomical landmarks and the size and volume of each craniofacial bone, as well as insights into the extent that canonical and non-canonical TGFβ signaling cascades contribute to the formation of each CNC–derived bone. Our data will serve as an important resource for developmental biologists who are interested in craniofacial morphogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4385433  PMID: 25722190
Mouse embryo; craniofacial bone development; TGFβ signaling; micro-computed tomography
4.  IFT46 plays an essential role in cilia development 
Developmental biology  2015;400(2):248-257.
Cilia are microtubule-based structures that project into the extracellular space. Ciliary defects are associated with several human diseases, including polycystic kidney disease, primary ciliary dyskinesia, left-right axis patterning, hydrocephalus and retinal degeneration. However, the genetic and cellular biological control of ciliogenesis remains poorly understood. The IFT46 is one of the highly conserved intraflagellar transport complex B proteins. In zebrafish, ift46 is expressed in various ciliated tissues such as Kupffer’s vesicle, pronephric ducts, ears and spinal cord. We show that ift46 is localized to the basal body. Knockdown of ift46 gene results in multiple phenotypes associated with various ciliopathies including kidney cysts, pericardial edema and ventral axis curvature. In ift46 morphants, cilia in kidney and spinal canal are shortened and abnormal. Similar ciliary defects are observed in otic vesicles, lateral line hair cells, olfactory pits, but not in Kupffer’s vesicle. To explore the functions of Ift46 during mouse development, we have generated Ift46 knock-out mice. The Ift46 mutants have developmental defects in brain, neural tube and heart. In particular Ift46(−/−) homozygotes displays randomization of the embryo heart looping, which is a hallmark of defective left-right (L/R) axis patterning. Taken together, our results demonstrated that IFT46 has an essential role in vertebrate ciliary development.
PMCID: PMC4385464  PMID: 25722189
cilia; ciliopathy; IFT; intraflagellar transport; IFT46; KO mouse; L/R defect; zebrafish
5.  The myogenic repressor gene Holes in muscles is a direct transcriptional target of Twist and Tinman in the Drosophila embryonic mesoderm 
Developmental biology  2015;400(2):266-276.
Understanding the regulatory circuitry controlling myogenesis is critical to understanding developmental mechanisms and developmentally-derived diseases. We analyzed the transcriptional regulation of a Drosophila myogenic repressor gene, Holes in muscles (Him). Previously, Him was shown to inhibit Myocyte enhancer factor-2 (MEF2) activity, and is expressed in myoblasts but not differentiating myotubes. We demonstrate that different phases of Him embryonic expression arise through the actions of different enhancers, and we characterize the enhancer required for its early mesoderm expression. This Him early mesoderm enhancer contains two conserved binding sites for the basic helix-loop-helix regulator Twist, and one binding site for the NK homeodomain protein Tinman. The sites for both proteins are required for enhancer activity in early embryos. Twist and Tinman activate the enhancer in tissue culture assays, and ectopic expression of either factor is sufficient to direct ectopic expression of a Him-lacZ reporter, or of the endogenous Him gene. Moreover, sustained expression of twist expression in the mesoderm up-regulates mesodermal Him expression in late embryos. Our findings provide a model to define mechanistically how Twist can both promotes myogenesis through direct activation of Mef2, and can place a brake on myogenesis, through direct activation of Him.
PMCID: PMC4385497  PMID: 25704510
Drosophila; myogenesis; Twist; Tinman; Myocyte enhancer factor-2; MEF2; mesoderm; transcriptional regulation; regulatory network
6.  BMP signaling mediated by constitutively active Activin type 1 receptor (ACVR1) results in ectopic bone formation localized to distal extremity joints 
Developmental biology  2015;400(2):202-209.
BMP signaling mediated by ACVR1 plays a critical role for development of multiple structures including the cardiovascular and skeletal systems. While deficient ACVR1 signaling impairs normal embryonic development, hyperactive ACVR1 function (R206H in humans and Q207D mutation in mice, ca-ACVR1) results in formation of heterotopic ossification (HO). We developed a mouse line, which conditionally expresses ca-ACVR1 with Nfatc1-Cre+ transgene. Mutant mice developed ectopic cartilage and bone at the distal joints of the extremities including the interphalangeal joints and hind limb ankles as early as P4 in the absence of trauma or exogenous bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) administration. Micro-CT showed that even at later time points (up to P40), cartilage and bone development persisted at the affected joints most prominently in the ankle. Interestingly, this phenotype was not present in areas of bone outside of the joints – tibia are normal in mutants and littermate controls away from the ankle. These findings demonstrate that this model may allow for further studies of heterotopic ossification, which does not require the use of stem cells, direct trauma or activation with exogenous Cre gene administration.
PMCID: PMC4397658  PMID: 25722188
Nfatc1; ALK2; Acvr1; BMP receptor; heterotopic ossification; fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive; FOP; cartilage; bone; endochondral ossification
7.  Fgf10 is required for specification of non-sensory regions of the cochlear epithelium 
Developmental biology  2015;400(1):59-71.
The vertebrate inner ear is a morphologically complex sensory organ comprised of two compartments, the dorsal vestibular apparatus and the ventral cochlear duct, required for motion and sound detection, respectively. Fgf10, in addition to Fgf3, is necessary for the earliest stage of otic placode induction, but continued expression of Fgf10 in the developing otic epithelium, including the prosensory domain and later in Kolliker’s organ, suggests additional roles for this gene during morphogenesis of the labyrinth. While loss of Fgf10 was implicated previously in semicircular canal agenesis, we show that Fgf10−/+ embryos also exhibit a reduction or absence of the posterior semicircular canal, revealing a dosage-sensitive requirement for FGF10 in vestibular development. In addition, we show that Fgf10−/− embryos have previously unappreciated defects of cochlear morphogenesis, including a somewhat shortened duct, and, surprisingly, a substantially narrower duct. The mutant cochlear epithelium lacks Reissner’s membrane and a large portion of the outer sulcus--two non-contiguous, non-sensory domains. Marker gene analyses revealed effects on Reissner’s membrane as early as E12.5–E13.5 and on the outer sulcus by E15.5, stages when Fgf10 is expressed in close proximity to Fgfr2b, but these effects were not accompanied by changes in epithelial cell proliferation or death. These data indicate a dual role for Fgf10 in cochlear development: to regulate outgrowth of the duct and subsequently as a bidirectional signal that sequentially specifies Reissner’s membrane and outer sulcus non-sensory domains. These findings may help to explain the hearing loss sometimes observed in LADD syndrome subjects with FGF10 mutations.
PMCID: PMC4361244  PMID: 25624266
FGF signaling; cochlea; Reissner’s membrane; outer sulcus
8.  Hedgehog signaling in prostate epithelial-mesenchymal growth regulation 
Developmental biology  2015;400(1):94-104.
The prostate gland plays an important role in male reproduction, and is also an organ prone to diseases such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. The prostate consists of ducts with an inner layer of epithelium surrounded by stroma. Reciprocal signaling between these two cell compartments is instrumental to normal prostatic development, homeostasis, regeneration, as well as tumor formation. Hedgehog (HH) signaling is a master regulator in numerous developmental processes. In many organs, HH plays a key role in epithelial-mesenchymal signaling that regulates organ growth and tissue differentiation, and abnormal HH signaling has been implicated in the progression of various epithelial carcinomas. In this review, we focus on recent studies exploring the multipotency of endogenous postnatal and adult epithelial and stromal stem cells and studies addressing the role of HH in prostate development and cancer. We discuss the implications of the results for a new understanding of prostate development and disease. Insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying epithelial-mesenchymal growth regulation should provide a basis for devising innovative therapies to combat diseases of the prostate.
PMCID: PMC4361250  PMID: 25641695
Prostate; SHH; stem cells; epithelial-mesenchymal interaction; stroma; prostate cancer
9.  BMP-Smad4 signaling is required for precartilaginous mesenchymal condensation independent of Sox9 in the mouse 
Developmental biology  2015;400(1):132-138.
Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) regulate multiple aspects of skeletal development in vertebrates. Although exogenously applied BMPs can induce chondrogenesis de novo, the role and mechanism of physiologic BMP signaling during precartilaginous mesenchymal condensation is not well understood. By deleting the type I BMP receptors or the transcription factor Smad4 in the limb bud mesenchyme, we find that loss of BMP-Smad signaling abolishes skeletal development due to a failure in mesenchymal condensation. In the absence of Smad4, expression of Sox9, an essential transcription factor for chondrogenesis, initiates normally in the proximal mesenchyme of the limb bud, but fails to maintain its level or expand to the more distal territory at the later stages. However, forced-expression of Sox9 does not restore cartilage formation in the Smad4-deficeint embryo. In vitro micromass cultures show that the Smad4-deficient cells fail to condense in a cell-autonomous manner, even though they express several cell adhesion molecules either normally or even at a higher level. Thus, BMP-Smad signaling critically controls mesenchymal condensation to initiate skeletal development likely through a Sox9-independent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4361319  PMID: 25641697
BMP; Bmpr1a; Bmpr1b; Acvr1; Alk2; Alk3; Alk6; Smad4; Sox9; cartilage; mesenchymal condensation; mouse
10.  Fibroblast growth factor receptor–Frs2α signaling is critical for nephron progenitors 
Developmental biology  2015;400(1):82-93.
Previous studies using transgenic Pax3cre mice have revealed roles for fibroblast growth factor receptors (Fgfrs) and Fgfr substrate 2α (Frs2α) signaling in early metanephric mesenchyme patterning and in ureteric morphogenesis. The role of Fgfr/Frs2α signaling in nephron progenitors is unknown. Thus, we generated mouse models using BAC transgenic Six2EGFPcre (Six2cre) mediated deletion of Fgfrs and/or Frs2α in nephron progenitors. Six2cre mediated deletion of Fgfr1 or Fgfr2 alone led to no obvious kidney defects. Six2creFgfr1flox/floxFgfr2flox/flox (Fgfr1/2NP−/−) mice generate a discernable kidney; however, they develop nephron progenitor depletion starting at embryonic day 12.5 (E12.5) and later demonstrate severe cystic dysplasia. To determine the role of Frs2α signaling downstream of Fgfr2 in Fgfr1/2NP−/− mice, we generated Six2cre,Fgfr1flox/floxFgfr2LR/LR (Fgfr1NP−/−Fgfr2LR/LR) mice that have point mutations in the Frs2α binding site of Fgfr2. Like Fgfr1/2NP−/− mice, Fgfr1NP−/−Fgfr2LR/LR develop nephron progenitor depletion, but it does not start until E14.5 and older mice have less severe cystic dysplasia than Fgfr1/2NP−/− To determine the role of Frs2α alone in nephron progenitors, we generated Six2creFrs2′Aflox/flox (Frs2aNP−/−) mice. Frs2aNP−/− mice also develop nephron progenitor depletion and renal cysts, although these occurred later and were less severe than in the other Six2cre mutant mice. The nephron progenitor loss in all Six2cre mutant lines was associated with decreased Cited1 expression and increased apoptosis versus controls. FAC-sorted nephron progenitors in Six2cre Frs2′Aflox/flox mice demonstrated evidence of increased Notch activity versus controls, which likely drives the progenitor defects. Thus, Fgfr1 and Fgfr2 have synergistic roles in maintaining nephron progenitors; furthermore, Fgfr signaling in nephron progenitors appears to be mediated predominantly by Frs2α.
PMCID: PMC4361332  PMID: 25641696
Fibroblast growth factor receptors; Frs2α; Nephron progenitors; Kidney development
11.  miR-216a regulates snx5, a novel Notch signaling pathway component, during zebrafish retinal development 
Developmental biology  2015;400(1):72-81.
Precise regulation of Notch signaling is essential for normal vertebrate development. Mind bomb (Mib) is a ubiquitin ligase that is required for activation of Notch by Notch's ligand, Delta. Sorting Nexin 5 (SNX5) co-localizes with Mib and Delta complexes and has been shown to directly bind to Mib. We show that microRNA-216a (miR-216a) is expressed in the retina during early development and regulates snx5 to precisely regulate Notch signaling. miR-216a and snx5 have complementary expression patterns. Knocking down miR-216a and/or overexpression of snx5 resulted in increased Notch activation. Conversely, knocking down snx5 and/or miR-216a overexpression caused a decrease in Notch activation. We propose a model in which SNX5, precisely controlled by miR-216a, is a vital partner of Mib in promoting endocytosis of Delta and subsequent activation of Notch signaling.
PMCID: PMC4361363  PMID: 25645681
microRNA; Notch signaling; miR-216a; sorting nexin 5; zebrafish; retina
12.  An Early Requirement for nkx2.5 Ensures First and Second Heart Field Ventricular Identity and Cardiac Function into Adulthood 
Developmental biology  2014;400(1):10-22.
Temporally controlled mechanisms that define the unique features of ventricular and atrial cardiomyocyte identity are essential for the construction of a coordinated, morphologically intact heart. We have previously demonstrated an important role for nkx genes in maintaining ventricular identity, however, the specific timing of nkx2.5 function in distinct cardiomyocyte populations has yet to be elucidated. Here, we show that heat-shock induction of a novel transgenic line, Tg(hsp70l:nkx2.5-EGFP), during the initial stages of cardiomyocyte differentiation leads to rescue of chamber shape and identity in nkx2.5−/− embryos as chambers emerge. Intriguingly, our findings link an early role of this essential cardiac transcription factor with a later function. Moreover, these data reveal that nkx2.5 is also required in the second heart field as the heart tube forms, reflecting the temporal delay in differentiation of this population. Thus, our results support a model in which nkx genes induce downstream targets that are necessary to maintain chamber-specific identity in both early- and late-differentiating cardiomyocytes at discrete stages in cardiac morphogenesis. Furthermore, we show that overexpression of nkx2.5 during first and second heart field development not only rescues the mutant phenotype, but also is sufficient for proper function of the adult heart. Taken together, these results shed new light on the stage-dependent mechanisms that sculpt chamber-specific cardiomyocytes and, therefore, have the potential to improve in vitro generation of ventricular cells to treat myocardial infarction and congenital heart disease.
PMCID: PMC4361364  PMID: 25536398
nkx2.5; nkx2.7; atrium; ventricle; zebrafish; chamber identity
13.  Ecdysone response gene E78 controls ovarian germline stem cell niche formation and follicle survival in Drosophila 
Developmental biology  2015;400(1):33-42.
Nuclear hormone receptors have emerged as important regulators of mammalian and Drosophila adult physiology, affecting such seemingly diverse processes as adipogenesis, carbohydrate metabolism, circadian rhythm, stem cell function, and gamete production. Although nuclear hormone receptors Ecdysone Receptor (EcR) and Ultraspiracle (Usp) have multiple known roles in Drosophila development and regulate key processes during oogenesis, the adult function of the majority of nuclear hormone receptors remains largely undescribed. Ecdysone-induced protein 78C (E78), a nuclear hormone receptor closely related to Drosophila E75 and to mammalian Rev-Erb and Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptors, was originally identified as an early ecdysone target; however, it has remained unclear whether E78 significantly contributes to adult physiology or reproductive function. To further explore the biological function of E78 in oogenesis, we used available E78 reporters and created a new E78 loss-of-function allele. We found that E78 is expressed throughout the germline during oogenesis, and is important for proper egg production and for the maternal control of early embryogenesis. We showed that E78 is required during development to establish the somatic germline stem cell (GSC) niche, and that E78 function in the germline promotes the survival of developing follicles. Consistent with its initial discovery as an ecdysone-induced target, we also found significant genetic interactions between E78 and components of the ecdysone signaling pathway. Taken together with the previously described roles of EcR, Usp, and E75, our results suggest that nuclear hormone receptors are critical for the broad transcriptional control of a wide variety of cellular processes during oogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4448935  PMID: 25624267
Eip78C; ecdysone signaling; oogenesis; germline stem cell
14.  Nodal signaling from the visceral endoderm is required to maintain Nodal gene expression in the epiblast and drive AVE migration 
Developmental biology  2014;400(1):1-9.
In the early mouse embryo, a specialized population of extraembryonic visceral endoderm (VE) cells called the anterior VE (AVE) establishes the anterior posterior (AP) axis by restricting gastrulation-inducing signals to the opposite pole. These cells arise at the distal tip of the egg cylinder stage embryo and then asymmetrically migrate to the prospective anterior following the path of an earlier arising and migrating population called the distal VE (DVE). The Nodal-signaling pathway has been shown to have a critical role in the generation of the DVE and AVE and in their migration. The Nodal gene is expressed in both the VE and in the pluripotent epiblast, which gives rise to the germ layers. Previous findings have provided conflicting evidence as to the relative importance of Nodal signaling from the epiblast vs. VE for AP patterning. Here we show that conditional mutagenesis of the Nodal gene specifically within the VE leads to reduced Nodal expression levels in the epiblast and incomplete or failed AVE migration. These results support a required role for VE Nodal to maintain normal levels of expression in the epiblast, and suggest signaling from both VE and epiblast is important for AVE migration.
PMCID: PMC4806383  PMID: 25536399
Nodal signaling; AVE; visceral endoderm; epiblast; Ttr-Cre
15.  Ectopic activation of the canonical wnt signaling pathway affects ectodermal patterning along the primary axis during larval development in the anthozoan Nematostella vectensis 
Developmental biology  2013;380(2):324-334.
The primary axis of cnidarians runs from the oral pole to the apical tuft and defines the major body axis of both the planula larva and adult polyp. In the anthozoan cnidarian Nematostella vectensis, the primary oral–aboral (O–Ab) axis first develops during the early embryonic stage. Here, we present evidence that pharmaceutical activators of canonical wnt signaling affect molecular patterning along the primary axis of Nematostella. Although not overtly morphologically complex, molecular investigations in Nematostella reveal that the O–Ab axis is demarcated by the expression of differentially localized signaling molecules and transcription factors that may serve roles in establishing distinct ectodermal domains. We have further characterized the larval epithelium by determining the position of a nested set of molecular boundaries, utilizing several newly characterized as well as previously reported epithelial markers along the primary axis. We have assayed shifts in their position in control embryos and in embryos treated with the pharmacological agents alsterpaullone and azakenpaullone, Gsk3β inhibitors that act as canonical wnt agonists, and the Wnt antagonist iCRT14, following gastrulation. Agonist drug treatments result in an absence of aboral markers, a shift in the expression boundaries of oral markers toward the aboral pole, and changes in the position of differentially localized populations of neurons in a dose-dependent manner, while antagonist treatment had the opposite effect. These experiments are consistent with canonical wnt signaling playing a role in an orally localized wnt signaling center. These findings suggest that in Nematostella, wnt signaling mediates O–Ab ectodermal patterning across a surprisingly complex epithelium in planula stages following gastrulation in addition to previously described roles for the wnt signaling pathway in endomesoderm specification during gastrulation and overall animal–vegetal patterning at earlier stages of anthozoan development.
PMCID: PMC4792810  PMID: 23722001
Wnt; Axial evolution; Cnidarian
16.  RhoGAP68F controls transport of adhesion proteins in Rab4 endosomes to modulate epithelial morphogenesis of Drosophila leg discs 
Developmental biology  2015;399(2):283-295.
Elongation and invagination of epithelial tissues are fundamental developmental processes that contribute to the morphogenesis of embryonic and adult structures and are dependent on coordinated remodeling of cell-cell contacts. The morphogenesis of Drosophila leg imaginal discs depends on extensive remodeling of cell contacts and thus provides a useful system with which to investigate the underlying mechanisms. The small Rho GTPase regulator RhoGAP68F has been previously implicated in leg morphogenesis. It consists of an N-terminal Sec14 domain and a C-terminal GAP domain. Here we examined the molecular function and role of RhoGAP68F in epithelial remodeling. We find that depletion of RhoGAP68F impairs epithelial remodeling from a pseudostratified to simple, while overexpression of RhoGAP68F causes tears of lateral cell-cell contacts and thus impairs epithelial integrity. We show that the RhoGAP68F protein localizes to Rab4 recycling endosomes and forms a complex with the Rab4 protein. The Sec14 domain is sufficient for localizing to Rab4 endosomes, while the activity of the GAP domain is dispensable. RhoGAP68F, in turn, inhibits the scission and movement of Rab4 endosomes involved in transport the adhesion proteins Fasciclin3 and E-cadherin back to cell-cell contacts. Expression of RhoGAP68F is upregulated during prepupal development suggesting that RhoGAP68F decreases the transport of key adhesion proteins to the cell surface during this developmental stage to decrease the strength of adhesive cell-cell contacts and thereby facilitate epithelial remodeling and leg morphogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4352398  PMID: 25617722
Epithelial morphogenesis; leg imaginal disc; tarsus; Rho GTPases; endocytic trafficking; Rab5; Rab4; Rab7; E-cadherin; Fasciclin3
17.  Evidence for Intermediate Mesoderm and Kidney Progenitor Cell Specification by Pax2 and PTIP Dependent Mechanisms 
Developmental biology  2015;399(2):296-305.
Activation of the Pax2 gene marks the intermediate mesoderm shortly after gastrulation, as the mesoderm becomes compartmentalized into paraxial, intermediate, and lateral plate. Using an EGFP knock-in allele of Pax2 to identify and sort cells of the intermediate mesodermal lineage, we compared gene expression patterns in EGFP positive cells that were heterozygous or homozygous null for Pax2. Thus, we identified critical regulators of intermediate mesoderm and kidney development whose expression depended on Pax2 function. In cell culture models, Pax2 is thought to recruit epigenetic modifying complex to imprint activating histone methylation marks through interactions with the adaptor protein PTIP. In kidney organ culture, conditional PTIP deletion showed that many Pax2 target genes, which were activated early in renal progenitor cells, remained on once activated, whereas Pax2 target genes expressed later in kidney development were unable to be fully activated without PTIP. In Pax2 mutants, we also identified a set of genes whose expression was up-regulated in EGFP positive cells and whose expression was consistent with a cell fate transformation to paraxial mesoderm and its derivatives. These data provide evidence that Pax2 specifies the intermediate mesoderm and renal epithelial cells through epigenetic mechanisms and in part by repressing paraxial mesodermal fate.
PMCID: PMC4352407  PMID: 25617721
Pax2; PTIP; kidney development; intermediate mesoderm; epigenetic
18.  Ontogeny of the mouse vocal fold epithelium 
Developmental biology  2015;399(2):263-282.
This investigation provides the first systematic determination of the cellular and molecular progression of vocal fold (VF) epithelium development in a murine model. We define five principal developmental events that constitute the progression from VF initiation in the embryonic anterior foregut tube to fully differentiated and functional adult tissue. These developmental events include (1) the initiation of the larynx and vocal folds with apposition of the lateral walls of the primitive laryngopharynx (embryonic (E) day 10.5); (2) the establishment of the epithelial lamina with fusion of the lateral walls of the primitive laryngopharynx (E11.5); (3) the epithelial lamina recanalization and separation of VFs (E13.5–18.5); (4) the stratification of the vocal folds (E13.5–18.5); and (5) the maturation of vocal fold epithelium (postnatal stages). The illustration of these morphogenetic events is substantiated by dynamic changes in cell proliferation and apoptosis, as well as the expression pattern of key transcription factors, FOXA2, SOX2 and NKX2-1 that specify and pattern the foregut endoderm. Furthermore, we documented the gradual conversion of VF epithelial cells from simple precursors expressing cytokeratins 8 and 18 in the embryo into mature stratified epithelial cells also expressing cytokeratins 5 and 14 in the adult. Interestingly, in the adult, cytokeratins 5 and 14 appear to be expressed in all cell layers in the VF, in contrast to their preferential localization to the basal cell layer in surrounding epithelium. To begin investigating the role of signaling molecules in vocal fold development, we characterized the expression pattern of SHH pathway genes, and how loss of Shh affects vocal fold development in the mutant. This study defines the cellular and molecular context and serves as the necessary foundation for future functional investigations of VF formation.
PMCID: PMC4352410  PMID: 25601450
Vocal fold; Epithelium; Differentiation; Stratification; Foregut
19.  Loss of cftr function leads to pancreatic destruction in larval zebrafish 
Developmental biology  2015;399(2):237-248.
The development and function of many internal organs requires precisely regulated fluid secretion. A key regulator of vertebrate fluid secretion is an anion channel, the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Loss of CFTR function leads to defects in fluid transport and cystic fibrosis (CF), a complex disease characterized by a loss of fluid secretion and mucus buildup in many organs including the lungs, liver, and pancreas. Several animal models including mouse, ferret and pig have been generated to investigate the pathophysiology of CF. However, these models have limited accessibility to early processes in the development of CF and are not amenable for forward genetic or chemical screens. Here, we show that Cftr is expressed and localized to the apical membrane of the zebrafish pancreatic duct and that loss of cftr function leads to destruction of the exocrine pancreas and a cystic fibrosis phenotype that mirrors human disease. Our analyses reveal that the cftr mutant pancreas initially develops normally, then rapidly loses pancreatic tissue during larval life, reflecting pancreatic disease in CF. Altogether, we demonstrate that the cftr mutant zebrafish is a powerful new model for pancreatitis and pancreatic destruction in CF. This accessible model will allow more detailed investigation into the mechanisms that drive CF of the pancreas and facilitate development of new therapies to treat the disease.
PMCID: PMC4765326  PMID: 25592226
Cftr; cystic fibrosis; pancreas
20.  Opposing Nodal/Vg1 and BMP signals mediate axial patterning in embryos of the basal chordate amphioxus 
Developmental biology  2010;344(1):377-389.
The basal chordate amphioxus resembles vertebrates in having a dorsal, hollow nerve cord, a notochord and somites. However, it lacks extensive gene duplications, and its embryos are small and gastrulate by simple invagination. Here we demonstrate that Nodal/Vg1 signaling acts from early cleavage through the gastrula stage to specify and maintain dorsal/anterior development while, starting at the early gastrula stage, BMP signaling promotes ventral/posterior identity. Knockdown and gain-of-function experiments show that these pathways act in opposition to one another. Signalling by these pathways is modulated by dorsally and/or anteriorly expressed genes including Chordin, Cerberus, and Blimp1. Overexpression and/or reporter assays in Xenopus demonstrate that the functions of these proteins are conserved between amphioxus and vertebrates. Thus, a fundamental genetic mechanism for axial patterning involving opposing Nodal and BMP signaling is present in amphioxus and probably also in the common ancestor of amphioxus and vertebrates or even earlier in deuterostome evolution.
PMCID: PMC4781670  PMID: 20488174
21.  The cochlear sensory epithelium derives from Wnt responsive cells in the dorsomedial otic cup 
Developmental biology  2015;399(1):177-187.
Wnt1 and Wnt3a secreted from the dorsal neural tube were previously shown to regulate a gene expression program in the dorsal otic vesicle that is necessary for vestibular morphogenesis (Riccomagno et al., 2005). Unexpectedly, Wnt1−/−; Wnt3a−/− embryos also displayed a pronounced defect in the outgrowth of the ventrally derived cochlear duct. To determine how Wnt signaling in the dorsal otocyst contributes to cochlear development we performed a series of genetic fate mapping experiments using two independent Wnt responsive driver strains (TopCreER and Gbx2CreER) that when crossed to inducible responder lines (RosalacZ or RosazsGreen) permanently labeled dorsomedial otic progenitors and their derivatives. Tamoxifen time course experiments revealed that most vestibular structures showed some degree of labeling when recombination was induced between E7.75 and E12.5, consistent with continuous Wnt signaling activity in this tissue. Remarkably, a population of Wnt responsive cells in the dorsal otocyst was also found to contribute to the sensory epithelium of the cochlear duct, including auditory hair and support cells. Similar results were observed with both TopCreER and Gbx2CreER strains. The ventral displacement of Wnt responsive cells followed a spatiotemporal sequence that initiated in the anterior otic cup at, or immediately prior to, the 17-somite stage (E9) and then spread progressively to the posterior pole of the otic vesicle by the 25-somite stage (E9.5). These lineage-tracing experiments identify the earliest known origin of auditory sensory progenitors within a population of Wnt responsive cells in the dorsomedial otic cup.
PMCID: PMC4339344  PMID: 25592224
cochlea; sensory progenitors; fate map; Wnt signaling; inner ear
22.  Nephron proximal tubule patterning and corpuscles of Stannius formation are regulated by the sim1a transcription factor and retinoic acid in zebrafish 
Developmental biology  2014;399(1):100-116.
The mechanisms that establish nephron segments are poorly understood. The zebrafish embryonic kidney, or pronephros, is a simplified yet conserved genetic model to study this renal development process because its nephrons contain segments akin to other vertebrates, including the proximal convoluted and straight tubules (PCT, PST). The zebrafish pronephros is also associated with the corpuscles of Stannius (CS), endocrine glands that regulate calcium and phosphate homeostasis, but whose ontogeny from renal progenitors is largely mysterious. Initial patterning of zebrafish renal progenitors in the intermediate mesoderm (IM) involves the formation of rostral and caudal domains, the former being reliant on retinoic acid (RA) signaling, and the latter being repressed by elevated RA levels. Here, using expression profiling to gain new insights into nephrogenesis, we discovered that the gene single minded family bHLH transcription factor 1a (sim1a) is dynamically expressed in the renal progenitors—first marking the caudal domain, then becoming restricted to the proximal segments, and finally exhibiting specific CS expression. In loss of function studies, sim1a knockdown expanded the PCT and abrogated both the PST and CS populations. Conversely, overexpression of sim1a modestly expanded the PST and CS, while it reduced the PCT. These results show that sim1a activity is necessary and partially sufficient to induce PST and CS fates, and suggest that sim1a may inhibit PCT fate and/or negotiate the PCT/PST boundary. Interestingly, the sim1a expression domain in renal progenitors is responsive to altered levels of RA, suggesting that RA regulates sim1a, directly or indirectly, during nephrogenesis. sim1a deficient embryos treated with exogenous RA formed nephrons that were predominantly composed of PCT segments, but lacked the enlarged PST observed in RA treated wild-types, indicating that RA is not sufficient to rescue the PST in the absence of sim1a expression. Alternately, when sim1a knockdowns were exposed to the RA inhibitor diethylaminobenzaldehyde (DEAB), the CS was abrogated rather than expanded as seen in DEAB treated wild-types, revealing that CS formation in the absence of sim1a cannot be rescued by RA biosynthesis abrogation. Taken together, these data reveal previously unappreciated roles for sim1a in zebrafish pronephric proximal tubule and CS patterning, and are consistent with the model that sim1a acts downstream of RA to mitigate the formation of these lineages. These findings provide new insights into the genetic pathways that direct nephron development, and may have implications for understanding renal birth defects and kidney reprogramming.
PMCID: PMC4339448  PMID: 25542995
pronephros; kidney; zebrafish; nephron; segmentation; sim1a; retinoic acid; nephrogenesis; proximal tubule; corpuscles of Stannius
23.  Sox4 regulates choroid fissure closure by limiting Hedgehog signaling during ocular morphogenesis 
Developmental biology  2014;399(1):139-153.
SoxC transcription factors play critical roles in many developmental processes, including neurogenesis, cardiac formation, and skeletal differentiation. In vitro and in vivo loss-of-function studies have suggested that SoxC genes are required for oculogenesis, however the mechanism was poorly understood. Here, we have explored the function of the SoxC factor Sox4 during zebrafish eye development. We show that sox4a and sox4b are expressed in the forebrain and periocular mesenchyme adjacent to the optic stalk during early eye development. Knockdown of sox4 in zebrafish resulted in coloboma, a structural malformation of the eye that is a significant cause of pediatric visual impairment in humans, in which the choroid fissure fails to close. Sox4 morphants displayed altered proximo-distal patterning of the optic vesicle, including expanded pax2 expression in the optic stalk, as well as ectopic cell proliferation in the retina. We show that the abnormal ocular morphogenesis observed in Sox4-deficient zebrafish is caused by elevated Hedgehog (Hh) signaling, and this is due to increased expression of the Hh pathway ligand Indian hedgehog b (ihhb). Consistent with these results, coloboma in sox4 morphants could be rescued by pharmacological treatment with the Hh inhibitor cyclopamine, or by co-knockdown of ihhb. Conversely, overexpression of sox4 reduced Hh signaling and ihhb expression, resulting in cyclopia. Finally, we demonstrate that sox4 and sox11 have overlapping, but not completely redundant, functions in regulating ocular morphogenesis. Taken together, our data demonstrate that Sox4 is required to limit the extent of Hh signaling during eye development, and suggest that mutations in SoxC factors could contribute to the development of coloboma.
PMCID: PMC4339509  PMID: 25557621
Sox4; Hedgehog signaling; Indian Hedgehog; zebrafish; coloboma; eye; choroid fissure
24.  Motor neuron cell bodies are actively positioned by Slit/Robo repulsion and Netrin/DCC attraction 
Developmental biology  2014;399(1):68-79.
Motor neurons differentiate from a ventral column of progenitors and settle in static clusters, the motor nuclei, next to the floor plate. Within these cell clusters, motor neurons receive afferent input and project their axons out to muscle targets. The molecular mechanisms that position motor neurons in the neural tube remain poorly understood. The floor plate produces several types of guidance cues with well-known roles in attracting and repelling axons, including the Slit family of chemorepellents via their Robo receptors, and Netrin1 via its DCC attractive receptor. In the present study we found that Islet1+ motor neuron cell bodies invaded the floor plate of Robo1/2 double mutant mouse embryos or Slit 1/2/3 triple mutants. Misplaced neurons were born in their normal progenitor column, but then migrated tangentially into the ventral midline. Robo1 and 2 receptor expression in motor neurons was confirmed by reporter gene staining and anti-Robo antibody labeling. Mis-positioned motor neurons projected their axons longitudinally within the floor plate, and failed to reach their normal exit points. To test for potential counteracting ventral attractive signals, we examined Netrin-1 and DCC mutants, and found that motor neurons shifted dorsally in the hindbrain and spinal cord, suggesting that Netrin-1/DCC signaling normally attracts motor neurons closer to the floor plate. Our results show that motor neurons are actively migrating cells, and are normally trapped in a static position by Slit/Robo repulsion and Netrin-1/DCC attraction.
PMCID: PMC4339514  PMID: 25530182
motor neuron; migration; floor plate; Slit/Robo; Netrin/DCC
25.  Differential Regenerative Capacity of Neonatal Mouse Hearts after Cryoinjury 
Developmental biology  2014;399(1):91-99.
Neonatal mouse hearts fully regenerate after ventricular resection similar to adult zebrafish. We established cryoinjury models to determine if different types and varying degrees of severity in cardiac injuries trigger different responses in neonatal mouse hearts. In contrast to ventricular resection, neonatal mouse hearts fail to regenerate and show severe impairment of cardiac function post transmural cryoinjury. However, neonatal hearts fully recover after non-transmural cryoinjury. Interestingly, cardiomyocyte proliferation does not significantly increase in neonatal mouse hearts after cryoinjuries. Epicardial activation and new coronary vessel formation occur after cryoinjury. The profibrotic marker PAI-1 is highly expressed after transmural but not non-transmural cryoinjuries, which may contribute to the differential scarring. Our results suggest that regenerative medicine strategies for heart injuries should vary depending on the nature of the injury.
PMCID: PMC4339535  PMID: 25555840
neonatal mouse heart regeneration; cryoinjury; cardiomyocyte proliferation; epicardium; neovascularization

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