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1.  Presenilin Deficiency or Lysosomal Inhibition Enhance Wnt Signaling Through Relocalization of GSK3 to the Late Endosomal Compartment 
Cell reports  2012;2(5):1316-1328.
Sustained canonical Wnt signaling requires inhibition of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 (GSK3) activity through its sequestration inside multivesicular endosomes (MVEs). Here we show that Wnt signaling is increased by the lysosomal inhibitor Chloroquine, which causes accumulation of MVEs. A similar MVE expansion and increased Wnt responsiveness was found in cells deficient in Presenilin, a protein associated with Alzheimer's disease. The Wnt-enhancing effects were entirely dependent on functional endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT), which are needed for formation of intraluminal vesicles in MVEs. We suggest that accumulation of late endosomal structures leads to enhanced canonical Wnt signaling through increased Wnt-receptor/GSK3 sequestration. The decrease in GSK3 cytosolic activity stabilized cytoplasmic GSK3 substrates such as β-Catenin, the microtubule associated protein Tau and other proteins. These results underscore the importance of the endosomal pathway in canonical Wnt signaling and reveal a new mechanism for regulation of Wnt signaling by Presenilin deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3538832  PMID: 23122960
2.  Systems control of BMP morphogen flow in vertebrate embryos 
Embryonic morphogenetic programs coordinate cell behavior to ensure robust pattern formation. Having identified components of those programs by molecular genetics, developmental biology is now borrowing concepts and tools from systems biology to decode their regulatory logic. Dorsal-ventral (D-V) patterning of the frog gastrula by Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) is one of the best studied examples of a self-regulating embryonic patterning system. Embryological analyses and mathematical modeling are revealing that the BMP activity gradient is maintained by a directed flow of BMP ligands towards the ventral side. Pattern robustness is ensured through feedback control of the levels of extracellular BMP pathway modulators that adjust the flow to the dimensions of the embryonic field.
PMCID: PMC3224208  PMID: 21937218
3.  Endocytic control of growth factor signalling: multivesicular bodies as signalling organelles 
Signal transduction and endocytosis are intertwined processes. The internalization of ligand-activated receptors by endocytosis has classically been thought to attenuate signals by targeting receptors for degradation in lysosomes, but it can also maintain signals in early signalling endosomes. In both cases, localization to multivesicular endosomes en route to lysosomes is thought to terminate signalling. However, during WNT signal transduction, sequestration of the enzyme glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) inside multivesicular endosomes results in the stabilization of many cytosolic proteins. Thus, the role of endocytosis during signal transduction may be more diverse than anticipated, and multivesicular endosomes may constitute a crucial signalling organelle.
PMCID: PMC3374592  PMID: 22108513
4.  Phosphorylation of Mad Controls Competition Between Wingless and BMP Signaling 
Science signaling  2011;4(194):10.1126/scisignal.2002034 ra68.
Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and Wnts are growth factors that provide essential patterning signals for cell proliferation and differentiation. Here, we describe a molecular mechanism by which the phosphorylation state of the Drosophila transcription factor Mad determines its ability to transduce either BMP or Wingless (Wg) signals. Previously, Mad was thought to function in gene transcription only when phosphorylated by BMP receptors. We found that the unphosphorylated form of Mad was required for canonical Wg signaling by interacting with the Pangolin-Armadillo transcriptional complex. Phosphorylation of the carboxyl terminus of Mad by BMP receptor directed Mad toward BMP signaling, thereby preventing Mad from functioning in the Wg pathway. The results show that Mad has distinct signal transduction roles in the BMP and Wnt pathways depending on its phosphorylation state.
PMCID: PMC3215398  PMID: 21990430
5.  Temporal pattern of the posterior expression of Wingless in Drosophila blastoderm 
Gene expression patterns : GEP  2011;11(7):456-463.
In most animals, the Antero-Posterior (A-P) axis requires a gradient of Wnt signaling. Wnts are expressed posteriorly in many vertebrate and invertebrate embryos, forming a gradient of canonical Wnt/β-Catenin activity that is highest in the posterior and lowest in the anterior. One notable exception to this evolutionary conservation is in the Drosophila embryo, in which the A-P axis is established by early transcription factors of maternal origin. Despite this initial axial establishment, Drosophila still expresses Wingless (Wg), the main Drosophila Wnt homologue, in a strong posterior band early in embryogenesis. Since its discovery 30 years ago this posterior band of Wg has been largely ignored. In this study, we re-examined the onset of expression of the Wg posterior band in relation to the expression of Wg in other segments, and compared the timing of its expression to that of axial regulators such as gap and pair-rule genes. It was found that the posterior band of Wg is first detected in blastoderm at mid nuclear cycle 14, before the segment-polarity stripes of Wg are formed in other segments. The onset of the posterior band of Wg expression was preceded by that of the gap gene products Hunchback (hb) and Krüppel (Kr), and the pair-rule protein Even-skipped (Eve). Although the function of the posterior band of Wg was not analyzed in this study, we note that in temperature-sensitive Wg mutants, in which Wg is not properly secreted, the posterior band of Wg expression is diminished in strength, indicating a positive feedback loop required for Wg robust expression at the cellular blastoderm stage. We propose that this early posterior expression could play a role in the refinement of A-P patterning.
PMCID: PMC3200307  PMID: 21821151
Wnt; antero-posterior patterning; gap genes; pair-rule genes; evo-devo
6.  Dorsal–Ventral patterning: Crescent is a dorsally secreted Frizzled-related protein that competitively inhibits Tolloid proteases 
Developmental biology  2011;352(2):317-328.
In Xenopus, dorsal–ventral (D–V) patterning can self-regulate after embryo bisection. This is mediated by an extracellular network of proteins secreted by the dorsal and ventral centers of the gastrula. Different proteins of similar activity can be secreted at these two poles, but under opposite transcriptional control. Here we show that Crescent, a dorsal protein, can compensate for the loss of Sizzled, a ventral protein. Crescent is a secreted Frizzled-Related Protein (sFRP) known to regulate Wnt8 and Wnt11 activity. We now find that Crescent also regulates the BMP pathway. Crescent expression was increased by the BMP antagonist Chordin and repressed by BMP4, while the opposite was true for Sizzled. Crescent knock-down increased the expression of BMP target genes, and synergized with Sizzled morpholinos. Thus, Crescent loss-of-function is compensated by increased expression of its ventral counterpart Sizzled. Crescent overexpression dorsalized whole embryos but not ventral half-embryos, indicating that Crescent requires a dorsal component to exert its anti-BMP activity. Crescent protein lost its dorsalizing activity in Chordin-depleted embryos. When co-injected, Crescent and Chordin proteins greatly synergized in the dorsalization of Xenopus embryos. The molecular mechanism of these phenotypes is explained by the ability of Crescent to inhibit Tolloid metalloproteinases, which normally degrade Chordin. Enzyme kinetic studies showed that Crescent was a competitive inhibitor of Tolloid activity, which bound to Tolloid/BMP1 with a KD of 11 nM. In sum, Crescent is a new component of the D–V pathway, which functions as the dorsal counterpart of Sizzled, through the regulation of chordinases of the Tolloid family.
PMCID: PMC3088358  PMID: 21295563
BMP signaling; Wnt signaling; Tolloid; Chordin; sFRP Morphogenetic field; Sizzled; Ogon; Crossveinless-2
7.  Wnt Signaling Requires the Sequestration of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 inside Multivesicular Endosomes 
Cell  2010;143(7):1136-1148.
Canonical Wnt signaling requires inhibition of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 (GSK3) activity, but the molecular mechanism by which this is achieved remains unclear. Here we report that Wnt signaling triggers the sequestration of GSK3 from the cytosol into multivesicular bodies (MVBs), so that this enzyme becomes separated from its many cytosolic substrates. Endocytosed Wnt co-localized with GSK3 in acidic vesicles positive for endosomal markers. After Wnt addition, endogenous GSK3 activity decreased in the cytosol, and GSK3 became protected from protease treatment inside membrane-bounded organelles. Cryoimmuno electron microscopy showed that these corresponded to multivesicular bodies. Two proteins essential for MVB formation, HRS/Vps27 and Vps4, were required for Wnt signaling. The sequestration of GSK3 extended the half-life of many other proteins in addition to β-Catenin, including an artificial Wnt-regulated reporter protein containing GSK3 phosphorylation sites. We conclude that multivesicular endosomes are essential components of the Wnt signal transduction pathway.
PMCID: PMC3022472  PMID: 21183076
8.  Wnt Signaling in Axial Patterning and Regeneration: Lessons from Planaria 
Science signaling  2010;3(127):pe21.
Wnt signal transduction plays a crucial role in stem cell proliferation and regeneration. When canonical Wnt signaling is low, heads develop, and when it is high, tails are formed. In planarians, Wnt transcription is activated by wounding in a β-catenin–independent way. Hedgehog is one of the signals involved, because it induces regeneration of tails (instead of heads) through the activation of Wnt transcription. Depletion of Smad4 blocks regeneration entirely, which suggests that the bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathway and the Wnt pathway are required for regeneration and body patterning.
PMCID: PMC3034647  PMID: 20571126
9.  Drosophila Smad2 Opposes Mad Signaling during Wing Vein Development 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10383.
In the vertebrates, the BMP/Smad1 and TGF-β/Smad2 signaling pathways execute antagonistic functions in different contexts of development. The differentiation of specific structures results from the balance between these two pathways. For example, the gastrula organizer/node of the vertebrates requires a region of low Smad1 and high Smad2 signaling. In Drosophila, Mad regulates tissue determination and growth in the wing, but the function of dSmad2 in wing patterning is largely unknown. In this study, we used an RNAi loss-of-function approach to investigate dSmad2 signaling during wing development. RNAi-mediated knockdown of dSmad2 caused formation of extra vein tissue, with phenotypes similar to those seen in Dpp/Mad gain-of-function. Clonal analyses revealed that the normal function of dSmad2 is to inhibit the response of wing intervein cells to the extracellular Dpp morphogen gradient that specifies vein formation, as measured by expression of the activated phospho-Mad protein. The effect of dSmad2 depletion in promoting vein differentiation was dependent on Medea, the co-factor shared by Mad and dSmad2. Furthermore, double RNAi experiments showed that Mad is epistatic to dSmad2. In other words, depletion of Smad2 had no effect in Mad-deficient wings. Our results demonstrate a novel role for dSmad2 in opposing Mad-mediated vein formation in the wing. We propose that the main function of dActivin/dSmad2 in Drosophila wing development is to antagonize Dpp/Mad signaling. Possible molecular mechanisms for the opposition between dSmad2 and Mad signaling are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2860994  PMID: 20442782
10.  Spemann's organizer and self-regulation in amphibian embryos 
In 1924, Spemann and Mangold demonstrated the induction of Siamese twins in transplantation experiments with salamander eggs. Recent work in amphibian embryos has followed their lead and uncovered that cells in signalling centres that are located at the dorsal and ventral poles of the gastrula embryo communicate with each other through a network of secreted growth-factor antagonists, a protease that degrades them, a protease inhibitor and bone-morphogenic-protein signals.
PMCID: PMC2464568  PMID: 16482093
11.  Identification of a second Xenopus Twisted Gastrulation gene 
Twisted Gastrulation (Tsg) is a secreted molecule which regulates BMP signalling in the extracellular space as part of an evolutionarily conserved network of interacting proteins. In Xenopus, maternal xTsg mRNA can be found throughout the early embryo. After gastrulation, xTsg is expressed as part of the BMP4 synexpression group until late tadpole stages. Here we report the identification of a second Xenopus Tsg gene (xTsg-2). Xenopus Tsg-2 is highly homologous to xTsg. In particular, amino acid residues which have been shown to be required for the binding of xTsg to BMP and to Chordin are conserved. The expression of Xenopus Tsg-2 mRNA was restricted to late stages of embryonic development; it was detected at tadpole stages in lateral plate mesoderm, neural crest, branchial arches and head mesenchyme. In microinjection experiments, the activity of xTsg-2 mRNA was similar to that of xTsg. We conclude that two Tsg genes act in distinct temporal and spatial territories in the course of Xenopus embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC2311381  PMID: 15005575
twisted gastrulation; BMP; chordin; tolloid; Xenopus
12.  Dorsal-Ventral Patterning and Neural Induction in Xenopus Embryos 
We review the current status of research in dorsal-ventral (D-V) patterning in vertebrates. Emphasis is placed on recent work on Xenopus, which provides a paradigm for vertebrate development based on a rich heritage of experimental embryology. D-V patterning starts much earlier than previously thought, under the influence of a dorsal nuclear β-Catenin signal. At mid-blastula two signaling centers are present on the dorsal side: The prospective neuroectoderm expresses bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonists, and the future dorsal endoderm secretes Nodal-related mesoderm-inducing factors. When dorsal mesoderm is formed at gastrula, a cocktail of growth factor antagonists is secreted by the Spemann organizer and further patterns the embryo. A ventral gastrula signaling center opposes the actions of the dorsal organizer, and another set of secreted antagonists is produced ventrally under the control of BMP4. The early dorsal β-Catenin signal inhibits BMP expression at the transcriptional level and promotes expression of secreted BMP antagonists in the prospective central nervous system (CNS). In the absence of mesoderm, expression of Chordin and Noggin in ectoderm is required for anterior CNS formation. FGF (fibroblast growth factor) and IGF (insulin-like growth factor) signals are also potent neural inducers. Neural induction by anti-BMPs such as Chordin requires mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation mediated by FGF and IGF. These multiple signals can be integrated at the level of Smad1. Phosphorylation by BMP receptor stimulates Smad1 transcriptional activity, whereas phosphorylation by MAPK has the opposite effect. Neural tissue is formed only at very low levels of activity of BMP-transducing Smads, which require the combination of both low BMP levels and high MAPK signals. Many of the molecular players that regulate D-V patterning via regulation of BMP signaling have been conserved between Drosophila and the vertebrates.
PMCID: PMC2280069  PMID: 15473842
beta-Catenin; Chordin; Noggin; Xnr3; Cerberus; sFRP; Frzb; Crescent; Dickkopf; Crossveinless-2; Tsg; Xolloid-related; Bambi; Sizzled; FGF; IGF; Urbilateria
13.  Depletion of Bmp2, Bmp4, Bmp7 and Spemann organizer signals induces massive brain formation in Xenopus embryos 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2005;132(15):3381-3392.
To address the patterning function of the Bmp2, Bmp4 and Bmp7 growth factors, we designed antisense morpholino oligomers (MO) that block their activity in Xenopus laevis. Bmp4 knockdown was sufficient to rescue the ventralizing effects caused by loss of Chordin activity. Double Bmp4 and Bmp7 knockdown inhibited tail development. Triple Bmp2/Bmp4/Bmp7 depletion further compromised trunk development but did not eliminate dorsoventral patterning. Unexpectedly, we found that blocking Spemann organizer formation by UV treatment or β-Catenin depletion caused BMP inhibition to have much more potent effects, abolishing all ventral development and resulting in embryos having radial central nervous system (CNS) structures. Surprisingly, dorsal signaling molecules such as Chordin, Noggin, Xnr6 and Cerberus were not re-expressed in these embryos. We conclude that BMP inhibition is sufficient for neural induction in vivo, and that in the absence of ventral BMPs, Spemann organizer signals are not required for brain formation.
PMCID: PMC2278118  PMID: 15975940
BMP; Chordin; Sizzled; Morpholino; Spemann organizer; Brain induction; Dorsoal-ventral patterning

Results 1-13 (13)