Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (146)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

Year of Publication
1.  The differential activation of intracellular signaling pathways confers the permissiveness of embryonic stem cell derivation from different mouse strains 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(3):431-437.
The requirement of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) for the establishment and maintenance of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) depends on the genetic background of the ESC origin. To reveal the molecular basis of the strain-dependent function of LIF, we compared the activation of the intracellular signaling pathways downstream of LIF in ESCs with different genetic backgrounds. We found that the JAK-Stat3 pathway was dominantly activated in ESCs derived from ‘permissive’ mouse strains (129Sv and C57BL6), whereas the MAP kinase pathway was hyperactivated in ESCs from ‘non-permissive’ strains (NOD, CBA and FVB). Artificial activation of Stat3 supported stable self-renewal of ESCs from non-permissive strains. These data suggest that the difference in the balance between the two intracellular signaling pathways underlies the differential response to LIF.
Highlighted article: Different mouse strains show distinct JAK-Stat and MAPK activity responses to LIF treatment, accounting for the varying ease of generating stem cells from these lines.
PMCID: PMC4302992  PMID: 25564647
LIF signaling; MAP kinase; Stat3; Embryonic stem cell; Signal responsiveness
2.  A transient wave of BMP signaling in the retina is necessary for Müller glial differentiation 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(3):533-543.
The primary glial cells in the retina, the Müller glia, differentiate from retinal progenitors in the first postnatal week. CNTF/LIF/STAT3 signaling has been shown to promote their differentiation; however, another key glial differentiation signal, BMP, has not been examined during this period of Müller glial differentiation. In the course of our analysis of the BMP signaling pathway, we observed a transient wave of Smad1/5/8 signaling in the inner nuclear layer at the end of the first postnatal week, from postnatal day (P) 5 to P9, after the end of neurogenesis. To determine the function of this transient wave, we blocked BMP signaling during this period in vitro or in vivo, using either a BMP receptor antagonist or noggin (Nog). Either treatment leads to a reduction in expression of the Müller glia-specific genes Rlbp1 and Glul, and the failure of many of the Müller glia to repress the bipolar/photoreceptor gene Otx2. These changes in normal Müller glial differentiation result in permanent disruption of the retina, including defects in the outer limiting membrane, rosette formation and a reduction in functional acuity. Our results thus show that Müller glia require a transient BMP signal at the end of neurogenesis to fully repress the neural gene expression program and to promote glial gene expression.
Summary: BMP signalling is transiently activated in the postnatal mouse retina to terminate the neurogenic program and promote the expression of glial-specific genes.
PMCID: PMC4302996  PMID: 25605781
Neurogenesis; Glia; Smad; Id1; Mouse
3.  A gene expression atlas of a bicoid-depleted Drosophila embryo reveals early canalization of cell fate 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(3):587-596.
In developing embryos, gene regulatory networks drive cells towards discrete terminal fates, a process called canalization. We studied the behavior of the anterior-posterior segmentation network in Drosophila melanogaster embryos by depleting a key maternal input, bicoid (bcd), and measuring gene expression patterns of the network at cellular resolution. This method results in a gene expression atlas containing the levels of mRNA or protein expression of 13 core patterning genes over six time points for every cell of the blastoderm embryo. This is the first cellular resolution dataset of a genetically perturbed Drosophila embryo that captures all cells in 3D. We describe the technical developments required to build this atlas and how the method can be employed and extended by others. We also analyze this novel dataset to characterize the degree and timing of cell fate canalization in the segmentation network. We find that in two layers of this gene regulatory network, following depletion of bcd, individual cells rapidly canalize towards normal cell fates. This result supports the hypothesis that the segmentation network directly canalizes cell fate, rather than an alternative hypothesis whereby cells are initially mis-specified and later eliminated by apoptosis. Our gene expression atlas provides a high resolution picture of a classic perturbation and will enable further computational modeling of canalization and gene regulation in this transcriptional network.
Summary: Drosophila bicoid mutant embryos show severe patterning phenotypes, but individual cells retain wild-type fates - as judged by expression of key patterning genes at single-cell resolution.
PMCID: PMC4302997  PMID: 25605785
Canalization; Drosophila; Bicoid; Even-skipped; Transcriptional network; Gene expression atlas
4.  VEGF189 binds NRP1 and is sufficient for VEGF/NRP1-dependent neuronal patterning in the developing brain 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(2):314-319.
The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA, VEGF) regulates neurovascular patterning. Alternative splicing of the Vegfa gene gives rise to three major isoforms termed VEGF121, VEGF165 and VEGF189. VEGF165 binds the transmembrane protein neuropilin 1 (NRP1) and promotes the migration, survival and axon guidance of subsets of neurons, whereas VEGF121 cannot activate NRP1-dependent neuronal responses. By contrast, the role of VEGF189 in NRP1-mediated signalling pathways has not yet been examined. Here, we have combined expression studies and in situ ligand-binding assays with the analysis of genetically altered mice and in vitro models to demonstrate that VEGF189 can bind NRP1 and promote NRP1-dependent neuronal responses.
Summary: Although VEGF165 was thought to be the sole VEGF isoform acting through neuropilin 1 (NRP1), VEGF189 also binds to and signals through NRP1 in several types of developing mouse neurons.
PMCID: PMC4302834  PMID: 25519242
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF); VEGF189; Neuron; Neuropilin; Mouse
5.  Canonical Wnt signalling regulates epithelial patterning by modulating levels of laminins in zebrafish appendages 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(2):320-330.
The patterning and morphogenesis of body appendages – such as limbs and fins – is orchestrated by the activities of several developmental pathways. Wnt signalling is essential for the induction of limbs. However, it is unclear whether a canonical Wnt signalling gradient exists and regulates the patterning of epithelium in vertebrate appendages. Using an evolutionarily old appendage – the median fin in zebrafish – as a model, we show that the fin epithelium exhibits graded changes in cellular morphology along the proximo-distal axis. This epithelial pattern is strictly correlated with the gradient of canonical Wnt signalling activity. By combining genetic analyses with cellular imaging, we show that canonical Wnt signalling regulates epithelial cell morphology by modulating the levels of laminins, which are extracellular matrix components. We have unravelled a hitherto unknown mechanism involved in epithelial patterning, which is also conserved in the pectoral fins – evolutionarily recent appendages that are homologous to tetrapod limbs.
Highlighted article: In the zebrafish fin, a Wnt gradient dictates the expression of laminin α5, which signals via integrin α3 to control epithelial cell morphology.
PMCID: PMC4302845  PMID: 25519245
Appendages; Epithelial cell shapes; Laminin; Wnt signalling; Zebrafish; Median fin fold
6.  Rho kinase activity controls directional cell movements during primitive streak formation in the rabbit embryo 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(1):92-98.
During animal gastrulation, the specification of the embryonic axes is accompanied by epithelio-mesenchymal transition (EMT), the first major change in cell shape after fertilization. EMT takes place in disparate topographical arrangements, such as the circular blastopore of amphibians, the straight primitive streak of birds and mammals or in intermediate gastrulation forms of other amniotes such as reptiles. Planar cell movements are prime candidates to arrange specific modes of gastrulation but there is no consensus view on their role in different vertebrate classes. Here, we test the impact of interfering with Rho kinase-mediated cell movements on gastrulation topography in blastocysts of the rabbit, which has a flat embryonic disc typical for most mammals. Time-lapse video microscopy, electron microscopy, gene expression and morphometric analyses of the effect of inhibiting ROCK activity showed – besides normal specification of the organizer region – a dose-dependent disruption of primitive streak formation; this disruption resulted in circular, arc-shaped or intermediate forms, reminiscent of those found in amphibians, fishes and reptiles. Our results reveal a crucial role of ROCK-controlled directional cell movements during rabbit primitive streak formation and highlight the possibility that temporal and spatial modulation of cell movements were instrumental for the evolution of gastrulation forms.
Summary: ROCK regulates cell motility, polarisation, intercalation and division in gastrulating rabbit embryos, revealing a role for Wnt-PCP signalling in primitive streak formation.
PMCID: PMC4299133  PMID: 25516971
Amniote evolution; Cell migration; Mammalian gastrulation; Mesoderm formation; Planar cell polarity; Primitive streak
7.  Arabidopsis AIP1-2 restricted by WER-mediated patterning modulates planar polarity 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(1):151-161.
The coordination of cell polarity within the plane of the tissue layer (planar polarity) is crucial for the development of diverse multicellular organisms. Small Rac/Rho-family GTPases and the actin cytoskeleton contribute to planar polarity formation at sites of polarity establishment in animals and plants. Yet, upstream pathways coordinating planar polarity differ strikingly between kingdoms. In the root of Arabidopsis thaliana, a concentration gradient of the phytohormone auxin coordinates polar recruitment of Rho-of-plant (ROP) to sites of polar epidermal hair initiation. However, little is known about cytoskeletal components and interactions that contribute to this planar polarity or about their relation to the patterning machinery. Here, we show that ACTIN7 (ACT7) represents a main actin isoform required for planar polarity of root hair positioning, interacting with the negative modulator ACTIN-INTERACTING PROTEIN1-2 (AIP1-2). ACT7, AIP1-2 and their genetic interaction are required for coordinated planar polarity of ROP downstream of ethylene signalling. Strikingly, AIP1-2 displays hair cell file-enriched expression, restricted by WEREWOLF (WER)-dependent patterning and modified by ethylene and auxin action. Hence, our findings reveal AIP1-2, expressed under control of the WER-dependent patterning machinery and the ethylene signalling pathway, as a modulator of actin-mediated planar polarity.
Summary: Planar polarity in Arabidopsis is shaped by ACTIN-INTERACTING PROTEIN1-2, which is under the control of WEREWOLF-dependent patterning and ethylene signalling.
PMCID: PMC4299142  PMID: 25428588
AIP1; Arabidopsis; WEREWOLF; Actin; Patterning; Planar polarity
8.  Precise and efficient genome editing in zebrafish using the CRISPR/Cas9 system 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(24):4827-4830.
The introduction of engineered site-specific DNA endonucleases has brought precise genome editing in many model organisms and human cells into the realm of possibility. In zebrafish, loss-of-function alleles have been successfully produced; however, germ line transmission of functional targeted knock-ins of protein tags or of SNP exchanges have not been reported. Here we show by phenotypic rescue that the CRISPR/Cas system can be used to target and repair a premature stop codon at the albino (alb) locus in zebrafish with high efficiency and precision. Using circular donor DNA containing CRISPR target sites we obtain close to 50% of larvae with precise homology-directed repair of the albb4 mutation, a small fraction of which transmitted the repaired allele in the germ line to the next generation (3/28 adult fish). The in vivo demonstration of germ line transmission of a precise SNP exchange in zebrafish underscores its suitability as a model for genetic research.
PMCID: PMC4299274  PMID: 25411213
Zebrafish; Genome editing; albino; slc45a2; CRISPR/Cas
9.  Spatiotemporal oscillations of Notch1, Dll1 and NICD are coordinated across the mouse PSM 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(24):4806-4816.
During somitogenesis, epithelial somites form from the pre-somitic mesoderm (PSM) in a periodic manner. This periodicity is regulated by a molecular oscillator, known as the ‘segmentation clock’, that is characterised by an oscillatory pattern of gene expression that sweeps the PSM in a caudal-rostral direction. Key components of the segmentation clock are intracellular components of the Notch, Wnt and FGF pathways, and it is widely accepted that intracellular negative-feedback loops regulate oscillatory gene expression. However, an open question in the field is how intracellular oscillations are coordinated, in the form of spatiotemporal waves of expression, across the PSM. In this study, we provide a potential mechanism for this process. We show at the mRNA level that the Notch1 receptor and Delta-like 1 (Dll1) ligand vary dynamically across the PSM of both chick and mouse. Remarkably, we also demonstrate similar dynamics at the protein level; hence, the pathway components that mediate intercellular coupling themselves exhibit oscillatory dynamics. Moreover, we quantify the dynamic expression patterns of Dll1 and Notch1, and show they are highly correlated with the expression patterns of two known clock components [Lfng mRNA and the activated form of the Notch receptor (cleaved Notch intracellular domain, NICD)]. Lastly, we show that Notch1 is a target of Notch signalling, whereas Dll1 is Wnt regulated. Regulation of Dll1 and Notch1 expression thus links the activity of Wnt and Notch, the two main signalling pathways driving the clock.
PMCID: PMC4299275  PMID: 25468943
Notch signalling; Oscillations; Somitogenesis
10.  Sirh7/Ldoc1 knockout mice exhibit placental P4 overproduction and delayed parturition 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(24):4763-4771.
Sirh7/Ldoc1 [sushi-ichi retrotransposon homolog 7/leucine zipper, downregulated in cancer 1, also called mammalian retrotransposon-derived 7 (Mart7)] is one of the newly acquired genes from LTR retrotransposons in eutherian mammals. Interestingly, Sirh7/Ldoc1 knockout (KO) mice exhibited abnormal placental cell differentiation/maturation, leading to an overproduction of placental progesterone (P4) and placental lactogen 1 (PL1) from trophoblast giant cells (TGCs). The placenta is an organ that is essential for mammalian viviparity and plays a major endocrinological role during pregnancy in addition to providing nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. P4 is an essential hormone in the preparation and maintenance of pregnancy and the determination of the timing of parturition in mammals; however, the biological significance of placental P4 in rodents is not properly recognized. Here, we demonstrate that mouse placentas do produce P4 in mid-gestation, coincident with a temporal reduction in ovarian P4, suggesting that it plays a role in the protection of the conceptuses specifically in this period. Pregnant Sirh7/Ldoc1 knockout females also displayed delayed parturition associated with a low pup weaning rate. All these results suggest that Sirh7/Ldoc1 has undergone positive selection during eutherian evolution as a eutherian-specific acquired gene because it impacts reproductive fitness via the regulation of placental endocrine function.
PMCID: PMC4299276  PMID: 25468940
Evolution; Gestation; Parturition; Placenta; Progesterone; Retrotransposon
11.  Wnt/β-catenin signaling integrates patterning and metabolism of the insect growth zone 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(24):4740-4750.
Wnt/β-catenin and hedgehog (Hh) signaling are essential for transmitting signals across cell membranes in animal embryos. Early patterning of the principal insect model, Drosophila melanogaster, occurs in the syncytial blastoderm, where diffusion of transcription factors obviates the need for signaling pathways. However, in the cellularized growth zone of typical short germ insect embryos, signaling pathways are predicted to play a more fundamental role. Indeed, the Wnt/β-catenin pathway is required for posterior elongation in most arthropods, although which target genes are activated in this context remains elusive. Here, we use the short germ beetle Tribolium castaneum to investigate two Wnt and Hh signaling centers located in the head anlagen and in the growth zone of early embryos. We find that Wnt/β-catenin signaling acts upstream of Hh in the growth zone, whereas the opposite interaction occurs in the head. We determine the target gene sets of the Wnt/β-catenin and Hh pathways and find that the growth zone signaling center activates a much greater number of genes and that the Wnt and Hh target gene sets are essentially non-overlapping. The Wnt pathway activates key genes of all three germ layers, including pair-rule genes, and Tc-caudal and Tc-twist. Furthermore, the Wnt pathway is required for hindgut development and we identify Tc-senseless as a novel hindgut patterning gene required in the early growth zone. At the same time, Wnt acts on growth zone metabolism and cell division, thereby integrating growth with patterning. Posterior Hh signaling activates several genes potentially involved in a proteinase cascade of unknown function.
PMCID: PMC4299277  PMID: 25395458
Head; Growth zone; Segment addition zone; Wnt; Hedgehog; Gut; Senseless
12.  Fezf2 promotes neuronal differentiation through localised activation of Wnt/β-catenin signalling during forebrain development 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(24):4794-4805.
Brain regionalisation, neuronal subtype diversification and circuit connectivity are crucial events in the establishment of higher cognitive functions. Here we report the requirement for the transcriptional repressor Fezf2 for proper differentiation of neural progenitor cells during the development of the Xenopus forebrain. Depletion of Fezf2 induces apoptosis in postmitotic neural progenitors, with concomitant reduction in forebrain size and neuronal differentiation. Mechanistically, we found that Fezf2 stimulates neuronal differentiation by promoting Wnt/β-catenin signalling in the developing forebrain. In addition, we show that Fezf2 promotes activation of Wnt/β-catenin signalling by repressing the expression of two negative regulators of Wnt signalling, namely lhx2 and lhx9. Our findings suggest that Fezf2 plays an essential role in controlling when and where neuronal differentiation occurs within the developing forebrain and that it does so by promoting local Wnt/β-catenin signalling via a double-repressor model.
PMCID: PMC4299278  PMID: 25468942
Fezf2; Wnt signalling; Xenopus; Forebrain development
13.  REVOLUTA and WRKY53 connect early and late leaf development in Arabidopsis 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(24):4772-4783.
As sessile organisms, plants have to continuously adjust growth and development to ever-changing environmental conditions. At the end of the growing season, annual plants induce leaf senescence to reallocate nutrients and energy-rich substances from the leaves to the maturing seeds. Thus, leaf senescence is a means with which to increase reproductive success and is therefore tightly coupled to the developmental age of the plant. However, senescence can also be induced in response to sub-optimal growth conditions as an exit strategy, which is accompanied by severely reduced yield. Here, we show that class III homeodomain leucine zipper (HD-ZIPIII) transcription factors, which are known to be involved in basic pattern formation, have an additional role in controlling the onset of leaf senescence in Arabidopsis. Several potential direct downstream genes of the HD-ZIPIII protein REVOLUTA (REV) have known roles in environment-controlled physiological processes. We report that REV acts as a redox-sensitive transcription factor, and directly and positively regulates the expression of WRKY53, a master regulator of age-induced leaf senescence. HD-ZIPIII proteins are required for the full induction of WRKY53 in response to oxidative stress, and mutations in HD-ZIPIII genes strongly delay the onset of senescence. Thus, a crosstalk between early and late stages of leaf development appears to contribute to reproductive success.
PMCID: PMC4299279  PMID: 25395454
REVOLUTA; HD-ZIPIII; WRKY53; Leaf senescence; Hydrogen peroxide signaling
14.  Ezh2-mediated repression of a transcriptional pathway upstream of Mmp9 maintains integrity of the developing vasculature 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(23):4610-4617.
Maintenance of vascular integrity is required for embryogenesis and organ homeostasis. However, the gene expression programs that stabilize blood vessels are poorly understood. Here, we show that the histone methyltransferase Ezh2 maintains integrity of the developing vasculature by repressing a transcriptional program that activates expression of Mmp9. Inactivation of Ezh2 in developing mouse endothelium caused embryonic lethality with compromised vascular integrity and increased extracellular matrix degradation. Genome-wide approaches showed that Ezh2 targets Mmp9 and its activators Fosl1 and Klf5. In addition, we uncovered Creb3l1 as an Ezh2 target that directly activates Mmp9 gene expression in the endothelium. Furthermore, genetic inactivation of Mmp9 rescued vascular integrity defects in Ezh2-deficient embryos. Thus, epigenetic repression of Creb3l1, Fosl1, Klf5 and Mmp9 by Ezh2 in endothelial cells maintains the integrity of the developing vasculature, potentially linking this transcriptional network to diseases with compromised vascular integrity.
PMCID: PMC4302930  PMID: 25359725
Ezh2; Epigenetics; Histone methylation; Vascular development; Vascular stability; Endothelium; Extracellular matrix; Mmp9; Mouse
15.  The lncRNA Neat1 is required for corpus luteum formation and the establishment of pregnancy in a subpopulation of mice 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(23):4618-4627.
Neat1 is a non-protein-coding RNA that serves as an architectural component of the nuclear bodies known as paraspeckles. Although cell-based studies indicate that Neat1 is a crucial regulator of gene expression, its physiological relevance remains unclear. Here, we find that Neat1 knockout (KO) mice stochastically fail to become pregnant despite normal ovulation. Unilateral transplantation of wild-type ovaries or the administration of progesterone partially rescued the phenotype, suggesting that corpus luteum dysfunction and concomitant low progesterone were the primary causes of the decreased fertility. In contrast to the faint expression observed in most of the adult tissues, Neat1 was highly expressed in the corpus luteum, and the formation of luteal tissue was severely impaired in nearly half of the Neat1 KO mice. These observations suggest that Neat1 is essential for the formation of the corpus luteum and for the subsequent establishment of pregnancy under a suboptimal condition that has not yet been identified.
PMCID: PMC4302932  PMID: 25359727
Neat1; Paraspeckles; Corpus luteum; Progesterone; Sfpq; Stochastic failure
16.  Wnt/β-catenin and FGF signalling direct the specification and maintenance of a neuromesodermal axial progenitor in ensembles of mouse embryonic stem cells 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(22):4243-4253.
The development of the central nervous system is known to result from two sequential events. First, an inductive event of the mesoderm on the overlying ectoderm that generates a neural plate that, after rolling into a neural tube, acts as the main source of neural progenitors. Second, the axial regionalization of the neural plate that will result in the specification of neurons with different anteroposterior identities. Although this description of the process applies with ease to amphibians and fish, it is more difficult to confirm in amniote embryos. Here, a specialized population of cells emerges at the end of gastrulation that, under the influence of Wnt and FGF signalling, expands and generates the spinal cord and the paraxial mesoderm. This population is known as the long-term neuromesodermal precursor (NMp). Here, we show that controlled increases of Wnt/β-catenin and FGF signalling during adherent culture differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) generates a population with many of the properties of the NMp. A single-cell analysis of gene expression within this population reveals signatures that are characteristic of stem cell populations. Furthermore, when this activation is triggered in three-dimensional aggregates of mESCs, the population self-organizes macroscopically and undergoes growth and axial elongation that mimics some of the features of the embryonic spinal cord and paraxial mesoderm. We use both adherent and three-dimensional cultures of mESCs to probe the establishment and maintenance of NMps and their differentiation.
PMCID: PMC4302903  PMID: 25371361
Wnt signalling; Mesodermal; Morphogenesis; Neural; Stem cells
17.  The UNC-6/Netrin receptors UNC-40/DCC and UNC-5 inhibit growth cone filopodial protrusion via UNC-73/Trio, Rac-like GTPases and UNC-33/CRMP 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(22):4395-4405.
UNC-6/Netrin is a conserved axon guidance cue that can mediate both attraction and repulsion. We previously discovered that attractive UNC-40/DCC receptor signaling stimulates growth cone filopodial protrusion and that repulsive UNC-40–UNC-5 heterodimers inhibit filopodial protrusion in C. elegans. Here, we identify cytoplasmic signaling molecules required for UNC-6-mediated inhibition of filopodial protrusion involved in axon repulsion. We show that the Rac-like GTPases CED-10 and MIG-2, the Rac GTP exchange factor UNC-73/Trio, UNC-44/Ankyrin and UNC-33/CRMP act in inhibitory UNC-6 signaling. These molecules were required for the normal limitation of filopodial protrusion in developing growth cones and for inhibition of growth cone filopodial protrusion caused by activated MYR::UNC-40 and MYR::UNC-5 receptor signaling. Epistasis studies using activated CED-10 and MIG-2 indicated that UNC-44 and UNC-33 act downstream of the Rac-like GTPases in filopodial inhibition. UNC-73, UNC-33 and UNC-44 did not affect the accumulation of full-length UNC-5::GFP and UNC-40::GFP in growth cones, consistent with a model in which UNC-73, UNC-33 and UNC-44 influence cytoskeletal function during growth cone filopodial inhibition.
PMCID: PMC4302909  PMID: 25371370
UNC-40/DCC; UNC-5; UNC-6; Axon repulsion; Filopodia; Growth cone; Caenorhabditis elegans
18.  Symmetry breaking, germ layer specification and axial organisation in aggregates of mouse embryonic stem cells 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(22):4231-4242.
Mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) are clonal populations derived from preimplantation mouse embryos that can be propagated in vitro and, when placed into blastocysts, contribute to all tissues of the embryo and integrate into the normal morphogenetic processes, i.e. they are pluripotent. However, although they can be steered to differentiate in vitro into all cell types of the organism, they cannot organise themselves into structures that resemble embryos. When aggregated into embryoid bodies they develop disorganised masses of different cell types with little spatial coherence. An exception to this rule is the emergence of retinas and anterior cortex-like structures under minimal culture conditions. These structures emerge from the cultures without any axial organisation. Here, we report that small aggregates of mESCs, of about 300 cells, self-organise into polarised structures that exhibit collective behaviours reminiscent of those that cells exhibit in early mouse embryos, including symmetry breaking, axial organisation, germ layer specification and cell behaviour, as well as axis elongation. The responses are signal specific and uncouple processes that in the embryo are tightly associated, such as specification of the anteroposterior axis and anterior neural development, or endoderm specification and axial elongation. We discuss the meaning and implications of these observations and the potential uses of these structures which, because of their behaviour, we suggest to call ‘gastruloids’.
PMCID: PMC4302915  PMID: 25371360
Mouse; Gastrulation; Self-organisation; Symmetry breaking; Polarisation; Axial elongation; Endoderm; Mesoderm; Neural ectoderm; Pattern formation; Live cell imaging
19.  A fat body-derived apical extracellular matrix enzyme is transported to the tracheal lumen and is required for tube morphogenesis in Drosophila 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(21):4104-4109.
The apical extracellular matrix plays a central role in epithelial tube morphogenesis. In the Drosophila tracheal system, Serpentine (Serp), a secreted chitin deacetylase expressed by the tracheal cells plays a key role in regulating tube length. Here, we show that the fly fat body, which is functionally equivalent to the mammalian liver, also contributes to tracheal morphogenesis. Serp was expressed by the fat body, and the secreted Serp was taken up by the tracheal cells and translocated to the lumen to functionally support normal tracheal development. This process was defective in rab9 and shrub/vps32 mutants and in wild-type embryos treated with a secretory pathway inhibitor, leading to an abundant accumulation of Serp in the fat body. We demonstrated that fat body-derived Serp reached the tracheal lumen after establishment of epithelial barrier function and was retained in the lumen in a chitin synthase-dependent manner. Our results thus reveal that the fat body, a mesodermal organ, actively contributes to tracheal development.
PMCID: PMC4302886  PMID: 25336738
Fat body; Chitin; Transcytosis; Drosophila trachea
20.  Making designer mutants in model organisms 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(21):4042-4054.
Recent advances in the targeted modification of complex eukaryotic genomes have unlocked a new era of genome engineering. From the pioneering work using zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), to the advent of the versatile and specific TALEN systems, and most recently the highly accessible CRISPR/Cas9 systems, we now possess an unprecedented ability to analyze developmental processes using sophisticated designer genetic tools. In this Review, we summarize the common approaches and applications of these still-evolving tools as they are being used in the most popular model developmental systems. Excitingly, these robust and simple genomic engineering tools also promise to revolutionize developmental studies using less well established experimental organisms.
PMCID: PMC4302887  PMID: 25336735
Genome engineering; Transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN); Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated systems (Cas9); Zinc finger nuclease (ZFN); Model organisms
21.  Genome-wide identification of signaling center enhancers in the developing limb 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(21):4194-4198.
The limb is widely used as a model developmental system and changes to gene expression patterns in its signaling centers, notably the zone of polarizing activity (ZPA) and the apical ectodermal ridge (AER), are known to cause limb malformations and evolutionary differences in limb morphology. Although several genes that define these limb signaling centers have been described, the identification of regulatory elements that are active within these centers has been limited. By dissecting mouse E11.5 limbs that fluorescently mark the ZPA or AER, followed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting and low-cell H3K27ac ChIP-seq, we identified thousands of specific signaling-center enhancers. Our ChIP-seq datasets show strong correlation with ZPA- and AER-expressed genes, previously characterized functional ZPA and AER enhancers and enrichment for relevant biological terms related to limb development and malformation for the neighboring genes. Using transgenic assays, we show that several of these sequences function as ZPA and AER enhancers. Our results identify novel ZPA and AER enhancers that could be important regulators of genes involved in the establishment of these specialized regions and the patterning of tetrapod limbs.
PMCID: PMC4302890  PMID: 25273087
Enhancer; AER; ZPA; Limb; Mouse
22.  mTOR regulates brain morphogenesis by mediating GSK3 signaling 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(21):4076-4086.
Balanced control of neural progenitor maintenance and neuron production is crucial in establishing functional neural circuits during brain development, and abnormalities in this process are implicated in many neurological diseases. However, the regulatory mechanisms of neural progenitor homeostasis remain poorly understood. Here, we show that mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is required for maintaining neural progenitor pools and plays a key role in mediating glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) signaling during brain development. First, we generated and characterized conditional mutant mice exhibiting deletion of mTOR in neural progenitors and neurons in the developing brain using Nestin-cre and Nex-cre lines, respectively. The elimination of mTOR resulted in abnormal cell cycle progression of neural progenitors in the developing brain and thereby disruption of progenitor self-renewal. Accordingly, production of intermediate progenitors and postmitotic neurons were markedly suppressed. Next, we discovered that GSK3, a master regulator of neural progenitors, interacts with mTOR and controls its activity in cortical progenitors. Finally, we found that inactivation of mTOR activity suppresses the abnormal proliferation of neural progenitors induced by GSK3 deletion. Our findings reveal that the interaction between mTOR and GSK3 signaling plays an essential role in dynamic homeostasis of neural progenitors during brain development.
PMCID: PMC4302893  PMID: 25273085
mTOR; GSK3; Neural progenitor; Neurogenesis; Neuron positioning; Mouse
23.  The ubiquitin ligase FbxL7 regulates the Dachsous-Fat-Dachs system in Drosophila 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(21):4098-4103.
The atypical cadherins Dachsous (Ds) and Fat (Ft) are required to control the size and shape of tissues and organs in animals. In Drosophila, a key effector of Ds and Ft is the atypical myosin Dachs, which becomes planar polarised along the proximal-distal axis in developing epithelia to regulate tissue size via the Hippo pathway and tissue shape via modulating tension at junctions. How Ds and Ft control Dachs polarisation remains unclear. Here, we identify a ubiquitin ligase, FbxL7, as a novel component of the Ds-Ft-Dachs system that is required to control the level and localisation of Dachs. Loss of FbxL7 results in accumulation of Dachs, similar to loss of Ft. Overexpression of FbxL7 causes downregulation of Dachs, similar to overexpression of the Ft intracellular domain. In addition to regulating Dachs, FbxL7 also influences Ds in a similar manner. GFP-tagged FbxL7 localises to the plasma membrane in a Ft-dependent manner and is planar polarised. We propose that Ft recruits FbxL7 to the proximal side of the cell to help restrict Ds and Dachs to the distal side of the cell.
PMCID: PMC4302899  PMID: 25256343
Dachsous; Drosophila; Fat; Hippo; Planar polarity
24.  Ultradian oscillations and pulses: coordinating cellular responses and cell fate decisions 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(19):3627-3636.
Biological clocks play key roles in organismal development, homeostasis and function. In recent years, much work has focused on circadian clocks, but emerging studies have highlighted the existence of ultradian oscillators – those with a much shorter periodicity than 24 h. Accumulating evidence, together with recently developed optogenetic approaches, suggests that such ultradian oscillators play important roles during cell fate decisions, and analyzing the functional links between ultradian oscillation and cell fate determination will contribute to a deeper understanding of the design principle of developing embryos. In this Review, we discuss the mechanisms of ultradian oscillatory dynamics and introduce examples of ultradian oscillators in various biological contexts. We also discuss how optogenetic technology has been used to elucidate the biological significance of ultradian oscillations.
PMCID: PMC4197574  PMID: 25249457
Negative feedback; Optogenetics; Ultradian oscillator; Systems biology
25.  Mapping the Shh long-range regulatory domain 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(20):3934-3943.
Coordinated gene expression controlled by long-distance enhancers is orchestrated by DNA regulatory sequences involving transcription factors and layers of control mechanisms. The Shh gene and well-established regulators are an example of genomic composition in which enhancers reside in a large desert extending into neighbouring genes to control the spatiotemporal pattern of expression. Exploiting the local hopping activity of the Sleeping Beauty transposon, the lacZ reporter gene was dispersed throughout the Shh region to systematically map the genomic features responsible for expression activity. We found that enhancer activities are retained inside a genomic region that corresponds to the topological associated domain (TAD) defined by Hi-C. This domain of approximately 900 kb is in an open conformation over its length and is generally susceptible to all Shh enhancers. Similar to the distal enhancers, an enhancer residing within the Shh second intron activates the reporter gene located at distances of hundreds of kilobases away, suggesting that both proximal and distal enhancers have the capacity to survey the Shh topological domain to recognise potential promoters. The widely expressed Rnf32 gene lying within the Shh domain evades enhancer activities by a process that may be common among other housekeeping genes that reside in large regulatory domains. Finally, the boundaries of the Shh TAD do not represent the absolute expression limits of enhancer activity, as expression activity is lost stepwise at a number of genomic positions at the verges of these domains.
PMCID: PMC4197689  PMID: 25252942
Sonic hedgehog (Shh); Enhancers; Long-range regulation; Topological domains; Sleeping beauty transposon; Mouse

Results 1-25 (146)