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1.  Hedgehog signaling to distinct cell types differentially regulates coronary artery and vein development 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(18):3161-3171.
Vascular development begins with formation of a primary capillary plexus that is later remodeled to give rise to the definitive vasculature. While the mechanism by which arterial and venous fates are acquired is well understood, little is known about when during vascular development arterial and venous vessels emerge and how their growth is regulated. Previously, we have demonstrated that a Hedgehog (HH)/ Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and Angiopoietin2 (ANG2) signaling pathway is essential for the development of the coronary vasculature. Here we use conditional gene targeting to identify the cell types that receive HH signaling and mediate coronary vascular development. We show that HH signaling to the cardiomyoblast is required for the development of coronary veins, while HH signaling to the perivascular cell (PVC) is necessary for coronary arterial growth. Moreover, the cardiomyoblast and PVC appear to be the exclusive cell types that receive HH signals, as ablation of HH signaling in both cell types leads to an arrest in coronary development. Finally, we present evidence suggesting that coronary arteries and veins may be derived from distinct lineages.
PMCID: PMC4306353  PMID: 18725519
Hedgehog (HH); Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF); Angiopoietin (Ang); heart development; coronary vascular development; myocardium; pericyte
2.  Vascular remodeling of the mouse yolk sac requires hemodynamic force 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2007;134(18):3317-3326.
The embryonic heart and vessels are dynamic and form and remodel while functional. Much has been learned about the genetic mechanisms underlying the development of the cardiovascular system, but we are just beginning to understand how changes in heart and vessel structure are influenced by hemodynamic forces such as shear stress. Recent work has shown that vessel remodeling in the mouse yolk sac is secondarily effected when cardiac function is reduced or absent. These findings indicate that proper circulation is required for vessel remodeling, but have not defined whether the role of circulation is to provide mechanical cues, to deliver oxygen or to circulate signaling molecules. Here, we used time-lapse confocal microscopy to determine the role of fluid-derived forces in vessel remodeling in the developing murine yolk sac. Novel methods were used to characterize flows in normal embryos and in embryos with impaired contractility (Mlc2a−/−). We found abnormal plasma and erythroblast circulation in these embryos, which led us to hypothesize that the entry of erythroblasts into circulation is a key event in triggering vessel remodeling. We tested this by sequestering erythroblasts in the blood islands, thereby lowering the hematocrit and reducing shear stress, and found that vessel remodeling and the expression of eNOS (Nos3) depends on erythroblast flow. Further, we rescued remodeling defects and eNOS expression in low-hematocrit embryos by restoring the viscosity of the blood. These data show that hemodynamic force is necessary and sufficient to induce vessel remodeling in the mammalian yolk sac.
PMCID: PMC4260474  PMID: 17720695
Blood flow; Viscosity; Shear stress; Cardiovascular; Angiogenesis; eNOS (Nos3); Mlc2a (Myl7); Mouse
3.  Dual requirement for Pax6 in retinal progenitor cells 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(24):4037-4047.
Throughout the developing central nervous system, pre-patterning of the ventricular zone into discrete neural progenitor domains is one of the predominant strategies used to produce neuronal diversity in a spatially coordinated manner. In the retina, neurogenesis proceeds in an intricate chronological and spatial sequence, yet it remains unclear whether retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) display intrinsic heterogeneity at any given time point. Here, we performed a detailed study of RPC fate upon temporally and spatially confined inactivation of Pax6. Timed genetic removal of Pax6 appeared to unmask a cryptic divergence of RPCs into qualitatively divergent progenitor pools. In the more peripheral RPCs under normal circumstances, Pax6 seemed to prevent premature activation of a photoreceptor-differentiation pathway by suppressing expression of the transcription factor Crx. More centrally, Pax6 contributed to the execution of the comprehensive potential of RPCs: Pax6 ablation resulted in the exclusive generation of amacrine interneurons. Together, these data suggest an intricate dual role for Pax6 in retinal neurogenesis, while pointing to the cryptic divergence of RPCs into distinct progenitor pools.
PMCID: PMC4231183  PMID: 19004853
Pax6; Retinal progenitor cells; Retinogenesis; Crx; Cre/loxP
4.  Hedgehog signaling plays a cell-autonomous role in maximizing cardiac developmental potential 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(22):3789-3799.
Elucidation of the complete roster of signals required for myocardial specification is crucial to the future of cardiac regenerative medicine. Prior studies have implicated the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway in the regulation of multiple aspects of heart development. However, our understanding of the contribution of Hh signaling to the initial specification of myocardial progenitor cells remains incomplete. Here, we show that Hh signaling promotes cardiomyocyte formation in zebrafish. Reduced Hh signaling creates a cardiomyocyte deficit, and increased Hh signaling creates a surplus. Through fate-mapping, we find that Hh signaling is required at early stages to ensure specification of the proper number of myocardial progenitors. Genetic inducible fate mapping in mouse indicates that myocardial progenitors respond directly to Hh signals, and transplantation experiments in zebrafish demonstrate that Hh signaling acts cell autonomously to promote the contribution of cells to the myocardium. Thus, Hh signaling plays an essential early role in defining the optimal number of cardiomyocytes, making it an attractive target for manipulation of multipotent progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC4213142  PMID: 18842815
Hedgehog; Cardiac progenitor specification; Cyclopamine; Heart development; Smoothened; Zebrafish
5.  Dishevelled genes mediate a conserved mammalian PCP pathway to regulate convergent extension during neurulation 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2006;133(9):1767-1778.
The planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway is conserved throughout evolution, but it mediates distinct developmental processes. In Drosophila, members of the PCP pathway localize in a polarized fashion to specify the cellular polarity within the plane of the epithelium, perpendicular to the apicobasal axis of the cell. In Xenopus and zebrafish, several homologs of the components of the fly PCP pathway control convergent extension. We have shown previously that mammalian PCP homologs regulate both cell polarity and polarized extension in the cochlea in the mouse. Here we show, using mice with null mutations in two mammalian Dishevelled homologs, Dvl1 and Dvl2, that during neurulation a homologous mammalian PCP pathway regulates concomitant lengthening and narrowing of the neural plate, a morphogenetic process defined as convergent extension. Dvl2 genetically interacts with Loop-tail, a point mutation in the mammalian PCP gene Vangl2, during neurulation. By generating Dvl2 BAC (bacterial artificial chromosome) transgenes and introducing different domain deletions and a point mutation identical to the dsh1 allele in fly, we further demonstrated a high degree of conservation between Dvl function in mammalian convergent extension and the PCP pathway in fly. In the neuroepithelium of neurulating embryos, Dvl2 shows DEP domain-dependent membrane localization, a pre-requisite for its involvement in convergent extension. Intriguing, the Loop-tail mutation that disrupts both convergent extension in the neuroepithelium and PCP in the cochlea does not disrupt Dvl2 membrane distribution in the neuroepithelium, in contrast to its drastic effect on Dvl2 localization in the cochlea. These results are discussed in light of recent models on PCP and convergent extension.
PMCID: PMC4158842  PMID: 16571627
Mouse; Planar cell polarity; Convergent extension; Neurulation
6.  Chromatin silencing and the maintenance of a functional germline in Caenorhabditis elegans 
Development (Cambridge, England)  1998;125(13):2451-2456.
The germline of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans exhibits a remarkable ability to specifically silence transgenic DNA. We have shown that this silencing mechanism is disrupted in animals mutant for the maternal effect sterile genes mes-2, mes-3, mes-4 and mes-6. The proteins encoded by mes-2 and mes-6 have been shown to be related to the Polycomb Group of transcriptional repressors (Holdeman, R., Nehrt, S. and Strome, S. (1998). Development 125, 2457-2467; Korf, I., Fan, F. and Strome, S. (1998). Development 125, 2469-2478). These results suggest that a genetic silencing process is essential for sustained germline function, and that this silencing is mediated, at least in part, by Polycomb Group proteins.
PMCID: PMC4084878  PMID: 9609828
Caenorhabditis elegans; mes genes; Polycomb group; Repeat dependent silencing; Germline
7.  Meiotic germ cells antagonize mesonephric cell migration and testis cord formation in mouse gonads 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2003;130(24):5895-5902.
The developmental fate of primordial germ cells in the mammalian gonad depends on their environment. In the XY gonad, Sry induces a cascade of molecular and cellular events leading to the organization of testis cords. Germ cells are sequestered inside testis cords by 12.5 dpc where they arrest in mitosis. If the testis pathway is not initiated, germ cells spontaneously enter meiosis by 13.5 dpc, and the gonad follows the ovarian fate. We have previously shown that some testis-specific events, such as mesonephric cell migration, can be experimentally induced into XX gonads prior to 12.5 dpc. However, after that time, XX gonads are resistant to the induction of cell migration. In current experiments, we provide evidence that this effect is dependent on XX germ cells rather than on XX somatic cells. We show that, although mesonephric cell migration cannot be induced into normal XX gonads at 14.5 dpc, it can be induced into XX gonads depleted of germ cells. We also show that when 14.5 dpc XX somatic cells are recombined with XY somatic cells, testis cord structures form normally; however, when XX germ cells are recombined with XY somatic cells, cord structures are disrupted. Sandwich culture experiments suggest that the inhibitory effect of XX germ cells is mediated through short-range interactions rather than through a long-range diffusible factor. The developmental stage at which XX germ cells show a disruptive effect on the male pathway is the stage at which meiosis is normally initiated, based on the immunodetection of meiotic markers. We suggest that at the stage when germ cells commit to meiosis, they reinforce ovarian fate by antagonizing the testis pathway.
PMCID: PMC4073601  PMID: 14561636
Primordial Germ cells; Meiosis; Sex Determination; Gonad; Testis; Sry
8.  Bcl11a is required for neuronal morphogenesis and sensory circuit formation in dorsal spinal cord development 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2012;139(10):1831-1841.
Dorsal spinal cord neurons receive and integrate somatosensory information provided by neurons located in dorsal root ganglia. Here we demonstrate that dorsal spinal neurons require the Krüppel-C2H2 zinc-finger transcription factor Bcl11a for terminal differentiation and morphogenesis. The disrupted differentiation of dorsal spinal neurons observed in Bcl11a mutant mice interferes with their correct innervation by cutaneous sensory neurons. To understand the mechanism underlying the innervation deficit, we characterized changes in gene expression in the dorsal horn of Bcl11a mutants and identified dysregulated expression of the gene encoding secreted frizzled-related protein 3 (sFRP3, or Frzb). Frzb mutant mice show a deficit in the innervation of the spinal cord, suggesting that the dysregulated expression of Frzb can account in part for the phenotype of Bcl11a mutants. Thus, our genetic analysis of Bcl11a reveals essential functions of this transcription factor in neuronal morphogenesis and sensory wiring of the dorsal spinal cord and identifies Frzb, a component of the Wnt pathway, as a downstream acting molecule involved in this process.
PMCID: PMC4067532  PMID: 22491945
Spinal cord; Transcription factor; Neuronal differentiation; Bcl11a (CTIP1); Mouse
9.  X-chromosome silencing in the germline of C. elegans 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2002;129(2):479-492.
Germline maintenance in the nematode C. elegans requires global repressive mechanisms that involve chromatin organization. During meiosis, the X chromosome in both sexes exhibits a striking reduction of histone modifications that correlate with transcriptional activation when compared with the genome as a whole. The histone modification spectrum on the X chromosome corresponds with a lack of transcriptional competence, as measured by reporter transgene arrays. The X chromosome in XO males is structurally analogous to the sex body in mammals, contains a histone modification associated with heterochromatin in other species and is inactivated throughout meiosis. The synapsed X chromosomes in hermaphrodites also appear to be silenced in early meiosis, but genes on the X chromosome are detectably expressed at later stages of oocyte meiosis. Silencing of the sex chromosome during early meiosis is a conserved feature throughout the nematode phylum, and is not limited to hermaphroditic species.
PMCID: PMC4066729  PMID: 11807039
C. elegans; Germline; Silencing; X-inactivation; Histone modifications; Gametogenesis
10.  Normal myoblast fusion requires myoferlin 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2005;132(24):5565-5575.
Muscle growth occurs during embryonic development and continues in adult life as regeneration. During embryonic muscle growth and regeneration in mature muscle, singly nucleated myoblasts fuse to each other to form myotubes. In muscle growth, singly nucleated myoblasts can also fuse to existing large, syncytial myofibers as a mechanism of increasing muscle mass without increasing myofiber number. Myoblast fusion requires the alignment and fusion of two apposed lipid bilayers. The repair of muscle plasma membrane disruptions also relies on the fusion of two apposed lipid bilayers. The protein dysferlin, the product of the Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy type 2 locus, has been shown to be necessary for efficient, calcium-sensitive, membrane resealing. We now show that the related protein myoferlin is highly expressed in myoblasts undergoing fusion, and is expressed at the site of myoblasts fusing to myotubes. Like dysferlin, we found that myoferlin binds phospholipids in a calcium-sensitive manner that requires the first C2A domain. We generated mice with a null allele of myoferlin. Myoferlin null myoblasts undergo initial fusion events, but they form large myotubes less efficiently in vitro, consistent with a defect in a later stage of myogenesis. In vivo, myoferlin null mice have smaller muscles than controls do, and myoferlin null muscle lacks large diameter myofibers. Additionally, myoferlin null muscle does not regenerate as well as wild-type muscle does, and instead displays a dystrophic phenotype. These data support a role for myoferlin in the maturation of myotubes and the formation of large myotubes that arise from the fusion of myoblasts to multinucleate myotubes.
PMCID: PMC4066872  PMID: 16280346
Myoblast; Fusion; Ferlin
11.  Zebrafish narrowminded suggests a genetic link between formation of neural crest and primary sensory neurons 
Development (Cambridge, England)  1999;126(18):3969-3979.
In the developing vertebrate nervous system, both neural crest and sensory neurons form at the boundary between non-neural ectoderm and the neural plate. From an in situ hybridization based expression analysis screen, we have identified a novel zebrafish mutation, narrowminded (nrd), which reduces the number of early neural crest cells and eliminates Rohon-Beard (RB) sensory neurons. Mosaic analysis has shown that the mutation acts cell autonomously suggesting that nrd is involved in either the reception or interpretation of signals at the lateral neural plate boundary. Characterization of the mutant phenotype indicates that nrd is required for a primary wave of neural crest cell formation during which progenitors generate both RB sensory neurons and neural crest cells. Moreover, the early deficit in neural crest cells in nrd homozygotes is compensated later in development. Thus, we propose that a later wave can compensate for the loss of early neural crest cells but, interestingly, not the RB sensory neurons. We discuss the implications of these findings for the possibility that RB sensory neurons and neural crest cells share a common evolutionary origin.
PMCID: PMC4059008  PMID: 10457007
narrowminded; Neural crest; Sensory neurons; Cell signalling; Zebrafish
12.  Wt1 negatively regulates β-catenin signaling during testis development 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(10):1875-1885.
β-Catenin, as an important effector of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway and as a regulator of cell adhesion, has been demonstrated to be involved in multiple developmental processes and tumorigenesis. β-Catenin expression was found mainly on the Sertoli cell membrane starting from embryonic day 15.5 in the developing testes. However, its potential role in Sertoli cells during testis formation has not been examined. To determine the function of β-catenin in Sertoli cells during testis formation, we either deleted β-catenin or expressed a constitutively active form of β-catenin in Sertoli cells. We found that deletion caused no detectable abnormalities. However, stabilization caused severe phenotypes, including testicular cord disruption, germ cell depletion and inhibition of Müllerian duct regression. β-Catenin stabilization caused changes in Sertoli cell identity and misregulation of inter-Sertoli cell contacts. As Wt1 conditional knockout in Sertoli cells causes similar phenotypes to our stabilized β-catenin mutants, we then investigated the relationship of Wt1 and β-catenin in Sertoli cells and found Wt1 inhibits β-catenin signaling in these cells during testis development. Wt1 deletion resulted in upregulation of β-catenin expression in Sertoli cells both in vitro and in vivo. Our study indicates that Sertoli cell expression of β-catenin is dispensable for testis development. However, the suppression of β-catenin signaling in these cells is essential for proper testis formation and Wt1 is a negative regulator of β-catenin signaling during this developmental process.
PMCID: PMC4038296  PMID: 18403409
β-Catenin; Wt1; Testis; Sertoli cell; Mouse
13.  spiel ohne grenzen/pou2 is required during establishment of the zebrafish midbrain-hindbrain boundary organizer 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2001;128(21):4165-4176.
The vertebrate midbrain-hindbrain boundary (MHB) organizes patterning and neuronal differentiation in the midbrain and anterior hindbrain. Formation of this organizing center involves multiple steps, including positioning of the MHB within the neural plate, establishment of the organizer and maintenance of its regional identity and signaling activities. Juxtaposition of the Otx2 and Gbx2 expression domains positions the MHB. How the positional information is translated into activation of Pax2, Wnt1 and Fgf8 expression during MHB establishment remains unclear. In zebrafish spiel ohne grenzen (spg) mutants, the MHB is not established, neither isthmus nor cerebellum form, the midbrain is reduced in size and patterning abnormalities develop within the hindbrain. In spg mutants, despite apparently normal expression of otx2, gbx1 and fgf8 during late gastrula stages, the initial expression of pax2.1, wnt1 and eng2, as well as later expression of fgf8 in the MHB primordium are reduced. We show that spg mutants have lesions in pou2, which encodes a POU-domain transcription factor. Maternal pou2 transcripts are distributed evenly in the blastula, and zygotic expression domains include the midbrain and hindbrain primordia during late gastrulation. Microinjection of pou2 mRNA can rescue pax2.1 and wnt1 expression in the MHB of spg/pou2 mutants without inducing ectopic expression. This indicates an essential but permissive role for pou2 during MHB establishment. pou2 is expressed normally in noi/pax2.1 and ace/fgf8 zebrafish mutants, which also form no MHB. Thus, expression of pou2 does not depend on fgf8 and pax2.1. Our data suggest that pou2 is required for the establishment of the normal expression domains of wnt1 and pax2.1 in the MHB primordium.
PMCID: PMC4027960  PMID: 11684654
Hindbrain; MHB; Midbrain; Isthmus; engrailed; fgf8; gbx2; otx2; pax2.1; spg; wnt1; POU domain; Danio rerio
14.  Dlx proteins position the neural plate border and determine adjacent cell fates 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2003;130(2):331-342.
The lateral border of the neural plate is a major source of signals that induce primary neurons, neural crest cells and cranial placodes as well as provide patterning cues to mesodermal structures such as somites and heart. Whereas secreted BMP, FGF and Wnt proteins influence the differentiation of neural and non-neural ectoderm, we show here that members of the Dlx family of transcription factors position the border between neural and non-neural ectoderm and are required for the specification of adjacent cell fates. Inhibition of endogenous Dlx activity in Xenopus embryos with an EnR-Dlx homeodomain fusion protein expands the neural plate into non-neural ectoderm tissue whereas ectopic activation of Dlx target genes inhibits neural plate differentiation. Importantly, the stereotypic pattern of border cell fates in the adjacent ectoderm is re-established only under conditions where the expanded neural plate abuts Dlx-positive non-neural ectoderm. Experiments in which presumptive neural plate was grafted to ventral ectoderm reiterate induction of neural crest and placodal lineages and also demonstrate that Dlx activity is required in non-neural ectoderm for the production of signals needed for induction of these cells. We propose that Dlx proteins regulate intercellular signaling across the interface between neural and non-neural ectoderm that is critical for inducing and patterning adjacent cell fates.
PMCID: PMC4018238  PMID: 12466200
Dlx; Neural crest; Neural induction; Xenopus; hairy2a; slug; snail; msx
15.  Drosophila Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein Developmentally Regulates Activity-Dependent Axon Pruning 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(8):1547-1557.
Fragile X Syndrome (FraX) is a broad-spectrum neurological disorder with symptoms ranging from hyperexcitability to mental retardation and autism. Loss of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (fmr1) gene product, the mRNA-binding translational regulator FMRP, causes structural over-elaboration of dendritic and axonal processes as well as functional alterations in synaptic plasticity at maturity. It is unclear, however, whether FraX is primarily a disease of development, a disease of plasticity or both; a distinction vital for engineering intervention strategies. To address this critical issue, we have used the Drosophila FraX model to investigate the developmental roles of Drosophila FMRP (dFMRP). dFMRP expression and regulation of chickadee/profilin coincides with a transient window of late brain development. During this time, dFMRP is positively regulated by sensory input activity, and required to limit axon growth and for efficient activity-dependent pruning of axon branches in the Mushroom Body learning/memory center. These results demonstrate that dFMRP has a primary role in activity-dependent neural circuit refinement in late brain development.
PMCID: PMC3988902  PMID: 18321984
Fragile X Syndrome; mental retardation; autism; neural development; translation; synaptogenesis; synaptic pruning
16.  Pdm and Castor close successive temporal identity windows in the NB3–1 lineage 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(21):3491-3499.
Neurogenesis in Drosophila and mammals requires the precise integration of spatial and temporal cues. In Drosophila, embryonic neural progenitors (neuroblasts) sequentially express the transcription factors Hunchback, Kruppel, Pdm1/Pdm2 (Pdm) and Castor as they generate a stereotyped sequence of neuronal and glial progeny. Hunchback and Kruppel specify early temporal identity in two posterior neuroblast lineages (NB7–1 and NB7–3), whereas Pdm and Castor specify late neuronal identity in the NB7–1 lineage. Because Pdm and Castor have only been assayed in one lineage, it is unknown whether their function is restricted to neuronal identity in the NB7–1 lineage, or whether they function more broadly as late temporal identity genes in all neuroblast lineages. Here, we identify neuronal birth-order and molecular markers within the NB3–1 cell lineage, and then use this lineage to assay Pdm and Castor function. We show that Hunchback and Kruppel specify first and second temporal identities, respectively. Surprisingly, Pdm does not specify the third temporal identity, but instead acts as a timing factor to close the second temporal identity window. Similarly, Castor closes the third temporal identity window. We conclude that Hunchback and Kruppel specify the first and second temporal identities, an unknown factor specifies the third temporal identity, and Pdm and Castor are timing factors that close the second and third temporal identity windows in the NB3–1 lineage. Our results provide a new neuroblast lineage for investigating temporal identity and reveal the importance of Pdm and Cas as timing factors that close temporal identity windows.
PMCID: PMC3989073  PMID: 18832394
Castor; Pdm (Nubbin); Cell fate; Lineage; Temporal identity; Timer; Hunchback; Kruppel
17.  Cell type specificity of a diffusible inducer is determined by a GATA family transcription factor 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(9):1635-1645.
One poorly understood mechanism of developmental patterning involves the intermingled differentiation of different cell types that then sort out to generate pattern. Examples of this are known in nematodes and vertebrates, and in Dictyostelium it is the major mechanism. However, a general problem with this mechanism is the possibility that different inducers are required for each cell type that arises independently of positional information. Consistent with this idea, in Dictyostelium the signalling molecule DIF acts as a position-independent signal and was thought only to regulate the differentiation of a single cell type (pstO). The results presented here challenge this idea. In a novel genetic selection to isolate genes required for DIF signal transduction, we found a mutant (dimC−) that is a hypomorphic allele of a GATA family transcription factor (gtaC). gtaC expression is directly regulated by DIF, and GtaC rapidly translocates to the nucleus in response to DIF. gtaC− null cells showed some hallmark DIF signalling defects. Surprisingly, other aspects of the mutant were distinct from those of other DIF signalling mutants, suggesting that gtaC regulates a subset of DIF responses. For example, pstO cell differentiation appeared normal. However, we found that pstB cells were mislocalised and the pstB-derived basal disc was much reduced or missing. These defects are due to a failure to respond to DIF as they are phenocopied in other DIF signalling mutants. These findings therefore identify a novel small-molecule-activated GATA factor that is required to regulate the cell type-specific effects of DIF. They also reveal that a non-positional signal can regulate the differentiation of multiple cell types through differential interpretation in receiving cells.
PMCID: PMC3942654  PMID: 18367552
DIF; Dictyostelium; GATA; Pattern formation; Sorting out
18.  Notch signalling regulates the contribution of progenitor cells from the chick Hensen’s node to the floor plate and notochord 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2010;137(4):561-568.
Hensen’s node of the chick embryo contains multipotent self-renewing progenitor cells that can contribute to either the floor plate or the notochord. Floor plate cells are a population of epithelial cells that lie at the ventral midline of the developing neural tube, whereas the notochord is a rod of axial mesoderm that lies directly beneath the floor plate. These two tissues serve as a source of a potent signalling morphogen, sonic hedgehog (Shh), which patterns the dorsoventral axis of the neural tube. We show, through both gain- and loss-of-function approaches, that Notch signalling promotes the contribution of chick axial progenitor cells to the floor plate and inhibits contribution to the notochord. Thus, we propose that Notch regulates the allocation of appropriate numbers of progenitor cells from Hensen’s node of the chick embryo to the notochord and the floor plate.
PMCID: PMC3928719  PMID: 20110321
Notch; Shh; Embryo; Chick; Notochord; Floor plate
19.  Somitogenesis 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2012;139(14):2453-2456.
A segmented body plan is fundamental to all vertebrate species and this bestows both rigidity and flexibility on the body. Segmentation is initiated through the process of somitogenesis. This article aims to provide a broad and balanced cross-species overview of somitogenesis and to highlight the key molecular and cellular events involved in each stage of segmentation. We highlight where our understanding of this multifaceted process relies on strong experimental evidence as well as those aspects where our understanding still relies largely on models.
PMCID: PMC3928720  PMID: 22736241
Determination front; Gastrulation; Segmentation clock
20.  Convergence of a head-field selector Otx2 and Notch signaling: a mechanism for lens specification 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2007;135(2):249-258.
Xenopus is ideal for systematic decoding of cis-regulatory networks because its evolutionary position among vertebrates allows one to combine comparative genomics with efficient transgenic technology in one system. Here we have identified and analyzed the major enhancer of FoxE3/Lens1, a gene essential for lens formation that is activated in the presumptive lens ectoderm (PLE) when commitment to the lens fate occurs. Deletion and mutation analyses of the enhancer based on comparison of Xenopus-mammalian sequences and in vitro and in vivo binding assays identified two essential transcriptional regulators; Otx2, a homeodomain protein expressed broadly in head ectoderm including the PLE, and Su(H), a nuclear signal transducer of Notch signaling. A Notch ligand, Delta2, is expressed in the optic vesicle adjacent to the PLE, and inhibition of its activity led to loss or severe reduction of FoxE3 expression followed by failure of placode formation. Ectopic activation of Notch signaling induced FoxE3 expression within head ectoderm expressing Otx2, and additional misexpression of Otx2 in trunk ectoderm extended the Notch-induced FoxE3 expression posteriorly. These data provide the first direct evidence of involvementof Notch signaling in lens induction. The obligate integration of inputs of a field-selector (Otx2) and localized signaling (Notch) within target cis-regulatory elements may be a general mechanism of organ-field specification in vertebrates (as in Drosophila). This concept is also consistent with classical embryological studies of many organ systems involving a “multiple-step induction”.
PMCID: PMC3918164  PMID: 18057103
competence; genomics; induction; lens; Notch; Xenopus
21.  Notch-dependent downregulation of the homeodomain gene cut is required for the mitotic cycle/endocycle switch and cell differentiation in Drosophila follicle cells 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2005;132(19):4299-4308.
During Drosophila mid-oogenesis, follicular epithelial cells switch from the mitotic cycle to the specialized endocycle in which the M phase is skipped. The switch, along with cell differentiation in follicle cells, is induced by Notch signaling. We show that the homeodomain gene cut functions as a linker between Notch and genes that are involved in cell-cycle progression. Cut was expressed in proliferating follicle cells but not in cells in the endocycle. Downregulation of Cut expression was controlled by the Notch pathway and was essential for follicle cells to differentiate and to enter the endocycle properly. cut-mutant follicle cells entered the endocycle and differentiated prematurely in a cell-autonomous manner. By contrast, prolonged expression of Cut caused defects in the mitotic cycle/endocycle switch. These cells continued to express an essential mitotic cyclin, Cyclin A, which is normally degraded by the Fizzy-related-APC/C ubiquitin proteosome system during the endocycle. Cut promoted Cyclin A expression by negatively regulating Fizzy-related. Our data suggest that Cut functions in regulating both cell differentiation and the cell cycle, and that downregulation of Cut by Notch contributes to the mitotic cycle/endocycle switch and cell differentiation in follicle cells.
PMCID: PMC3891799  PMID: 16141223
cut; Endocycle; Cell cycle transition; Notch signaling; Drosophila melanogaster
22.  Eya1 and Six1 are essential for early steps of sensory neurogenesis in mammalian cranial placodes 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2004;131(22):10.1242/dev.01437.
Eya1 encodes a transcriptional co-activator and is expressed in cranial sensory placodes. It interacts with and functions upstream of the homeobox gene Six1 during otic placodal development. Here, we have examined their role in cranial sensory neurogenesis. Our data show that the initial cell fate determination for the vestibuloacoustic neurons and their delamination appeared to be unaffected in the absence of Eya1 or Six1 as judged by the expression of the basic helix-loop-helix genes, Neurog1 that specifies the neuroblast cell lineage, and Neurod that controls neuronal differentiation and survival. However, both genes are necessary for normal maintenance of neurogenesis. During the development of epibranchial placode-derived distal cranial sensory ganglia, while the phenotype appears less severe in Six1 than in Eya1 mutants, an early arrest of neurogenesis was observed in the mutants. The mutant epibranchial progenitor cells fail to express Neurog2 that is required for the determination of neuronal precursors, and other basic helix-loop-helix as well as the paired homeobox Phox2 genes that are essential for neural differentiation and maintenance. Failure to activate their normal differentiation program resulted in abnormal apoptosis of the progenitor cells. Furthermore, we show that disruption of viable ganglion formation leads to pathfinding errors of branchial motoneurons. Finally, our results suggest that the Eya-Six regulatory hierarchy also operates in the epibranchial placodal development. These findings uncover an essential function for Eya1 and Six1 as critical determination factors in acquiring both neuronal fate and neuronal subtype identity from epibranchial placodal progenitors. These analyses define a specific role for both genes in early differentiation and survival of the placodally derived cranial sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC3882150  PMID: 15496442
Eya1; Six1; Otic; Epibranchial; Placode; Sensory neurons; Neurogenesis; Neurogenins; bHLH protein; Phox2a; Phox2b; Cranial nerve patterning
23.  Eya1 is required for the morphogenesis of mammalian thymus, parathyroid and thyroid 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2002;129(13):3033-3044.
Eyes absent (Eya) genes regulate organogenesis in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Mutations in human EYA1 cause congenital Branchio-Oto-Renal (BOR) syndrome, while targeted inactivation of murine Eya1 impairs early developmental processes in multiple organs, including ear, kidney and skeletal system. We have now examined the role of Eya1 during the morphogenesis of organs derived from the pharyngeal region, including thymus, parathyroid and thyroid. The thymus and parathyroid are derived from 3rd pharyngeal pouches and their development is initiated via inductive interactions between neural crest-derived arch mesenchyme, pouch endoderm, and possibly the surface ectoderm of 3rd pharyngeal clefts. Eya1 is expressed in all three cell types during thymus and parathyroid development from E9.5 and the organ primordia for both of these structures failed to form in Eya1−/− embryos. These results indicate that Eya1 is required for the initiation of thymus and parathyroid gland formation. Eya1 is also expressed in the 4th pharyngeal region and ultimobranchial bodies. Eya1−/− mice show thyroid hypoplasia, with severe reduction in the number of parafollicular cells and the size of the thyroid lobes and lack of fusion between the ultimobranchial bodies and the thyroid lobe. These data indicate that Eya1 also regulates mature thyroid gland formation. Furthermore, we show that Six1 expression is markedly reduced in the arch mesenchyme, pouch endoderm and surface ectoderm in the pharyngeal region of Eya1−/− embryos, indicating that Six1 expression in those structures is Eya1 dependent. In addition, we show that in Eya1−/− embryos, the expression of Gcm2 in the 3rd pouch endoderm is undetectable at E10.5, however, the expression of Hox and Pax genes in the pouch endoderm is preserved at E9.5–10.5. Finally, we found that the surface ectoderm of the 3rd and 4th pharyngeal region show increased cell death at E10.5 in Eya1−/− embryos. Our results indicate that Eya1 controls critical early inductive events involved in the morphogenesis of thymus, parathyroid and thyroid.
PMCID: PMC3873877  PMID: 12070080
Eya1; Thymus; Parathyroid; Thyroid; Morphogenesis; Hox; Pax; Six1; Gcm2; Neural crest; Endoderm; Ectoderm; Apoptosis; Mouse
24.  The role of Six1 in mammalian auditory system development 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2003;130(17):3989-4000.
The homeobox Six genes, homologues to Drosophila sine oculis (so) gene, are expressed in multiple organs during mammalian development. However, their roles during auditory system development have not been studied. We report that Six1 is required for mouse auditory system development. During inner ear development, Six1 expression was first detected in the ventral region of the otic pit and later is restricted to the middle and ventral otic vesicle within which, respectively, the vestibular and auditory epithelia form. By contrast, Six1 expression is excluded from the dorsal otic vesicle within which the semicircular canals form. Six1 is also expressed in the vestibuloacoustic ganglion. At E15.5, Six1 is expressed in all sensory epithelia of the inner ear. Using recently generated Six1 mutant mice, we found that all Six1+/− mice showed some degree of hearing loss because of a failure of sound transmission in the middle ear. By contrast, Six1−/− mice displayed malformations of the auditory system involving the outer, middle and inner ears. The inner ear development in Six1−/− embryos arrested at the otic vesicle stage and all components of the inner ear failed to form due to increased cell death and reduced cell proliferation in the otic epithelium. Because we previously reported that Six1 expression in the otic vesicle is Eya1 dependent, we first clarified that Eya1 expression was unaffected in Six1−/− otic vesicle, further demonstrating that the Drosophila Eya-Six regulatory cassette is evolutionarily conserved during mammalian inner ear development. We also analyzed several other otic markers and found that the expression of Pax2 and Pax8 was unaffected in Six1−/− otic vesicle. By contrast, Six1 is required for the activation of Fgf3 expression and the maintenance of Fgf10 and Bmp4 expression in the otic vesicle. Furthermore, loss of Six1 function alters the expression pattern of Nkx5.1 and Gata3, indicating that Six1 is required for regional specification of the otic vesicle. Finally, our data suggest that the interaction between Eya1 and Six1 is crucial for the morphogenesis of the cochlea and the posterior ampulla during inner ear development. These analyses establish a role for Six1 in early growth and patterning of the otic vesicle.
PMCID: PMC3873880  PMID: 12874121
Six1; Auditory system; Inner ear; Regional specification; Mouse; Eya1; Pax2; Fgf3; Fgf10; Bmp4; Nkx5.1; Gata3
25.  Six1 is required for the early organogenesis of mammalian kidney 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2003;130(14):3085-3094.
The murine Six gene family, homologous to Drosophila sine oculis (so) which encodes a homeodomain transcription factor, is composed of six members (Six1-6). Among the six members, only the Six2 gene has been previously shown to be expressed early in kidney development, but its function is unknown. We have recently found that the Six1 gene is also expressed in the kidney. In the developing kidney, Six1 is expressed in the uninduced metanephric mesenchyme at E10.5 and in the induced mesenchyme around the ureteric bud at E11.5. At E17.5 to P0, Six1 expression became restricted to a subpopulation of collecting tubule epithelial cells. To study its in vivo function, we have recently generated Six1 mutant mice. Loss of Six1 leads to a failure of ureteric bud invasion into the mesenchyme and subsequent apoptosis of the mesenchyme. These results indicate that Six1 plays an essential role in early kidney development. In Six1−/− kidney development, we have found that Pax2, Six2 and Sall1 expression was markedly reduced in the metanephric mesenchyme at E10.5, indicating that Six1 is required for the expression of these genes in the metanephric mesenchyme. In contrast, Eya1 expression was unaffected in Six1−/− metanephric mesenchyme at E10.5, indicating that Eya1 may function upstream of Six1. Moreover, our results show that both Eya1 and Six1 expression in the metanephric mesenchyme is preserved in Pax2−/− embryos at E10.5, further indicating that Pax2 functions downstream of Eya1 and Six1 in the metanephric mesenchyme. Thus, the epistatic relationship between Pax, Eya and Six genes in the metanephric mesenchyme during early kidney development is distinct from a genetic pathway elucidated in the Drosophila eye imaginal disc. Finally, our results show that Eya1 and Six1 genetically interact during mammalian kidney development, because most compound heterozygous embryos show hypoplastic kidneys. These analyses establish a role for Six1 in the initial inductive step for metanephric development.
PMCID: PMC3872112  PMID: 12783782
Six1; Kidney development; Eya1; Pax2; Six2; Sall1; Metanephric mesenchyme; Apoptosis; Gdnf; Mouse

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