Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS) is a genetic disorder linked to mutations in cohesin and its regulators. To date, it is unclear which function of cohesin is more relevant to the pathology of the syndrome. A mouse heterozygous for the gene encoding the cohesin loader Nipbl recapitulates many features of CdLS. We have carefully examined Nipbl deficient cells and here report that they have robust cohesion all along the chromosome. DNA replication, DNA repair and chromosome segregation are carried out efficiently in these cells. While bulk cohesin loading is unperturbed, binding to certain promoters such as the Protocadherin genes in brain is notably affected and alters gene expression. These results provide further support for the idea that developmental defects in CdLS are caused by deregulated transcription and not by malfunction of cohesion-related processes.
Cornelia de Lange Syndrome; Nibpl; cohesin; transcription; mouse model; cohesin; telomere fragility; DNA repair; mouse model; Cornelia de Lange syndrome
Haploinsufficiency for Nipbl, a cohesin loading protein, causes Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS), the most common “cohesinopathy”. It has been proposed that the effects of Nipbl-haploinsufficiency result from disruption of long-range communication between DNA elements. Here we use zebrafish and mouse models of CdLS to examine how transcriptional changes caused by Nipbl deficiency give rise to limb defects, a common condition in individuals with CdLS. In the zebrafish pectoral fin (forelimb), knockdown of Nipbl expression led to size reductions and patterning defects that were preceded by dysregulated expression of key early limb development genes, including fgfs, shha, hand2 and multiple hox genes. In limb buds of Nipbl-haploinsufficient mice, transcriptome analysis revealed many similar gene expression changes, as well as altered expression of additional classes of genes that play roles in limb development. In both species, the pattern of dysregulation of hox-gene expression depended on genomic location within the Hox clusters. In view of studies suggesting that Nipbl colocalizes with the mediator complex, which facilitates enhancer-promoter communication, we also examined zebrafish deficient for the Med12 Mediator subunit, and found they resembled Nipbl-deficient fish in both morphology and gene expression. Moreover, combined partial reduction of both Nipbl and Med12 had a strongly synergistic effect, consistent with both molecules acting in a common pathway. In addition, three-dimensional fluorescent in situ hybridization revealed that Nipbl and Med12 are required to bring regions containing long-range enhancers into close proximity with the zebrafish hoxda cluster. These data demonstrate a crucial role for Nipbl in limb development, and support the view that its actions on multiple gene pathways result from its influence, together with Mediator, on regulation of long-range chromosomal interactions.
Limb malformations are a striking feature of Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS), a multi-system birth defects disorder most commonly caused by haploinsufficiency for NIPBL. In addition to its role as a cohesin-loading factor, Nipbl also regulates gene expression, but how partial Nipbl deficiency causes limb defects is unknown. Using zebrafish and mouse models, we show that expression of multiple key regulators of early limb development, including shha, hand2 and hox genes, are sensitive to Nipbl deficiency. Furthermore, we find morphological and gene expression abnormalities similar to those of Nipbl-deficient zebrafish in the limb buds of zebrafish deficient for the Med12 subunit of Mediator—a protein complex that mediates physical interactions between enhancers and promoters—and genetic interaction studies support the view that Mediator and Nipbl act together. Strikingly, depletion of either Nipbl or Med12 leads to characteristic changes in hox gene expression that reflect the locations of genes within their chromosomal clusters, as well as to disruption of large-scale chromosome organization around the hoxda cluster, consistent with impairment of long-range enhancer-promoter interaction. Together, these findings provide insights into both the etiology of limb defects in CdLS, and the mechanisms by which Nipbl and Mediator influence gene expression.
Cell surface heparan sulfate (HS) potentiates the activities of various growth factors. Here we show that HS stimulates bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) activity by enhancing recruitment of type II receptor subunits to BMP-type I receptor complexes, suggesting a view of HS as a catalyst of the formation of signaling complexes.
Cell surface heparan sulfate (HS) not only binds several major classes of growth factors but also sometimes potentiates their activities—an effect usually termed “coreception.” A view that coreception is due to the stabilization of growth factor–receptor interactions has emerged primarily from studies of the fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). Recent in vivo studies have strongly suggested that HS also plays an important role in regulating signaling by the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). Here, we provide evidence that the mechanism of coreception for BMPs is markedly different from that established for FGFs. First, we demonstrate a direct, stimulatory role for cell surface HS in the immediate signaling activities of BMP2 and BMP4, and we provide evidence that HS–BMP interactions are required for this effect. Next, using several independent assays of ligand binding and receptor assembly, including coimmunoprecipitation, cross-linking, and fluorescence fluctuation microscopy, we show that HS does not affect BMP binding to type I receptor subunits but instead enhances the subsequent recruitment of type II receptor subunits to BMP-type I receptor complexes. This suggests a view of HS as a catalyst of the formation of signaling complexes, rather than as a stabilizer of growth factor binding.
The genetic network controlling early dorsal-ventral (DV) patterning has been extensively studied and modeled in the fruit fly Drosophila. This patterning is driven by signals coming from bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), and regulated by interactions of BMPs with secreted factors such as the antagonist short gastrulation (Sog). Experimental studies suggest that the DV patterning of vertebrates is controlled by a similar network of BMPs and antagonists (such as Chordin, a homologue of Sog), but differences exist in how the two systems are organized, and a quantitative comparison of pattern formation in them has not been made. Here, we develop a computational model in three-dimensions of the zebrafish embryo and use it to study molecular interactions in the formation of BMP morphogen gradients in early DV patterning. Simulation results are presented on the dynamics BMP gradient formation, the cooperative action of two feedback loops from BMP signaling to BMP and Chordin synthesis, and pattern sensitivity with respect to BMP and Chordin dosage. Computational analysis shows that, unlike the case in Drosophila, synergy of the two feedback loops in the zygotic control of BMP and Chordin expression, along with early initiation of localized Chordin expression, is critical for establishment and maintenance of a stable and appropriate BMP gradient in the zebrafish embryo.
Dorsal-ventral Patterning; BMP Gradients; Morphogens; zebrafish Embryo; Feedback
Stem cell divisions are either asymmetric—in which one daughter cell remains a stem cell and one does not—or symmetric, in which both daughter cells adopt the same fate, either stem or non-stem. Recent studies show that in many tissues operating under homeostatic conditions stem cell division patterns are strongly biased toward the symmetric outcome, raising the question of whether symmetry confers some benefit. Here, we show that symmetry, via extinction of damaged stem-cell clones, reduces the lifetime risk of accumulating phenotypically silent heritable damage (mutations or aberrant epigenetic changes) in individual stem cells. This effect is greatest in rapidly cycling tissues subject to accelerating rates of damage accumulation over time, a scenario that describes the progression of many cancers. A decrease in the rate of cellular damage accumulation may be an important factor favoring symmetric patterns of stem cell division.
Recently, highly symmetric patterns of stem cell division have been observed in a variety of adult mammalian somatic tissues. Here we identify conditions under which this behavior serves as a strategy to protect the organism against mutation accumulation. First, we find that a sufficient number of lifetime stem cell divisions must occur, potentially explaining why stem cell pools with the most symmetric divisions are rapidly cycling. Second, we find that late-occurring mutations must occur rapidly, a scenario known in cancer biology as genetic instability. These findings provide a potential explanation for the observation that cancer risks among large, long-lived organisms fail to rise as expected with lifespan and body size.
A large number of growth factors and drugs are known to act in a biphasic manner: at lower concentrations they cause increased division of target cells, whereas at higher concentrations the mitogenic effect is inhibited. Often, the molecular details of the mitogenic effect of the growth factor are known, whereas the inhibitory effect is not. Hepatoctyte Growth Factor, HGF, has recently been recognized as a strong mitogen that is present in the microenvironment of solid tumors. Recent evidence suggests that HGF acts in a biphasic manner on tumor growth. We build a multi-species model of HGF action on tumor cells using different hypotheses for high dose-HGF activation of a growth inhibitor and show that the shape of the dose-response curve is directly related to the mechanism of inhibitor activation. We thus hypothesize that the shape of a dose-response curve is informative of the molecular action of the growth factor on the growth inhibitor.
Cancer Modeling; Stem Cells; Coupled Dynamical Modeling; Cell Signaling; Nonlinear Biological Growth Control
Development, regeneration, and even day-to-day physiology require plant and animal cells to make decisions based on their locations. The principles by which cells may do this are deceptively straightforward. But when reliability needs to be high—as often occurs during development—successful strategies tend to be anything but simple. Increasingly, the challenge facing biologists is to relate the diverse diffusible molecules, control circuits, and gene regulatory networks that help cells know where they are to the varied, sometimes stringent, constraints imposed by the need for real-world precision and accuracy.
Borders are important as they demarcate developing tissue into distinct functional units. A key challenge is the discovery of mechanisms that can convert morphogen gradients into tissue borders. While mechanisms that produce ultrasensitive cellular responses provide a solution, how extracellular morphogens drive such mechanisms remains poorly understood. Here, we show how Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) and Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) pathways interact to generate ultrasensitivity and borders in the dorsal telencephalon. BMP and FGF signaling manipulations in explants produced border defects suggestive of cross inhibition within single cells, which was confirmed in dissociated cultures. Using mathematical modeling, we designed experiments that ruled out alternative cross inhibition mechanisms and identified a cross-inhibitory positive feedback (CIPF) mechanism, or “toggle switch”, which acts upstream of transcriptional targets in dorsal telencephalic cells. CIPF explained several cellular phenomena important for border formation such as threshold tuning, ultrasensitivity, and hysteresis. CIPF explicitly links graded morphogen signaling in the telencephalon to switch-like cellular responses and has the ability to form multiple borders and scale pattern to size. These benefits may apply to other developmental systems.
During development, morphogen gradients play a crucial role in transforming a uniform field of cells into regions with distinct cell identities (marked by the expression of specific genes). Finding mechanisms that convert morphogen gradients into sharp borders of gene expression, however, remains a challenge. Cellular ultrasensitivity mechanisms that convert a linear stimulus into an on-off target response offer a good solution for making such borders. In this paper, we show how a cross-inhibitory positive feedback or toggle switch mechanism driven by two extracellular morphogens – BMP and FGF - produces ultrasensitivity in forebrain cells. Experiments with cells and explanted brain tissue reveal that BMPs and FGFs cross inhibit each other's signaling pathway. Such cross inhibition could occur through four possible mechanisms. By an iterative combination of modeling and experiment, we show the toggle switch to be the mechanism underlying cross inhibition, the ultrasensitive expression of multiple genes, and hysteresis in forebrain cells. As the toggle switch explicitly links extracellular morphogens to cellular ultrasensitivity, it provides a mechanism for making multiple sharp borders that can also scale with tissue size – an important issue in pattern formation. This might explain the abundance of BMP-FGF cross inhibition during development.
The cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) glypican-1 is up-regulated by pancreatic and breast cancer cells, and its removal renders such cells insensitive to many growth factors. We sought to explain why the cell surface HSPG syndecan-1, which is also up-regulated by these cells and is a known growth factor coreceptor, does not compensate for glypican-1 loss. We show that the initial responses of these cells to the growth factor FGF2 are not glypican dependent, but they become so over time as FGF2 induces shedding of syndecan-1. Manipulations that retain syndecan-1 on the cell surface make long-term FGF2 responses glypican independent, whereas those that trigger syndecan-1 shedding make initial FGF2 responses glypican dependent. We further show that syndecan-1 shedding is mediated by matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP7), which, being anchored to cells by HSPGs, also causes its own release in a complex with syndecan-1 ectodomains. These results support a specific role for shed syndecan-1 or MMP7–syndecan-1 complexes in tumor progression and add to accumulating evidence that syndecans and glypicans have nonequivalent functions in vivo.
Retinoic acid (RA) regulates many cellular behaviors during embryonic development and adult homeostasis. Like other morphogens, RA forms gradients through the use of localized sources and sinks, feedback, and interactions with other signals; this has been particularly well studied in the context of hindbrain segmentation in vertebrate embryos. Yet, as a small lipophilic molecule derived from a dietary source—vitamin A—RA differs markedly from better-studied polypeptide morphogens in its mechanisms of transport, signaling, and removal. Computational models suggest that the distinctive features of RA gradients make them particularly robust to large perturbations. Such features include combined positive and negative feedback effects via intracellular fatty acid binding proteins and RA-degrading enzymes. Here, we discuss how these features, together with feedback interactions among RA target genes, help enable RA to specify multiple, accurate pattern elements in the developing hindbrain, despite operating in an environment of high cellular and biochemical uncertainty and noise.
Quasi-stable gradients of signaling protein molecules (known as morphogens or ligands) bound to cell receptors are known to be responsible for differential cell signaling and gene expressions. From these follow different stable cell fates and visually patterned tissues in biological development. Recent studies have shown that the relevant basic biological processes yield gradients that are sensitive to small changes in system characteristics (such as expression level of morphogens or receptors) or environmental conditions (such as temperature changes). Additional biological activities must play an important role in the high level of robustness observed in embryonic patterning for example. It is natural to attribute observed robustness to various type of feedback control mechanisms. However, our own simulation studies have shown that feedback control is neither necessary nor sufficient for robustness of the morphogen decapentaplegic (Dpp) gradient in wing imaginal disc of Drosophilas. Furthermore, robustness can be achieved by substantial binding of the signaling morphogen Dpp with nonsignaling cell surface bound molecules (such as heparan sulfate proteoglygans) and degrading the resulting complexes at a sufficiently rapid rate. The present work provides a theoretical basis for the results of our numerical simulation studies.
Morphogen gradient; nonlinear boundary value problem; robustness; mathematical modeling
How morphogen gradients form has long been a subject of controversy. The strongest support for the view that morphogens do not simply spread by free diffusion has come from a variety of studies of the Decapentaplegic (Dpp) gradient of the Drosophila larval wing disc.
In the present study, we initially show how the failure, in such studies, to consider the coupling of transport to receptor-mediated uptake and degradation has led to estimates of transport rates that are orders of magnitude too low, lending unwarranted support to a variety of hypothetical mechanisms, such as “planar transcytosis” and “restricted extracellular diffusion”. Using several independent dynamic methods, we obtain data that are inconsistent with such models, and that show directly that Dpp transport occurs by simple, rapid diffusion in the extracellular space. We discuss the implications of these findings for other morphogen systems in which complex transport mechanisms have been proposed.
We believe that these findings resolve a major, longstanding question about morphogen gradient formation, and provide a solid framework for interpreting experimental observations of morphogen gradient dynamics.
Biological systems are so complex that we must ask: "What purpose does all this complexity serve?" Lander argues that computational biology may help provide answers
Few mechanistic ideas from the pre-molecular era of biology have had as enduring an impact as the morphogen concept. In the classical view, cells in developing embryos obtain positional information by measuring morphogen concentrations and comparing them with fixed concentration thresholds; as a result, graded morphogen distributions map into discrete spatial arrangements of gene expression. Recent studies on Hedgehog and other morphogens suggest that establishing patterns of gene expression may be less a function of absolute morphogen concentrations, than of the dynamics of signal transduction, gene expression, and gradient formation. The data appoint away from any universal model of morphogen interpretation and suggest that organisms use multiple mechanisms for reading out developmental signals in order to accomplish specific patterning goals.
Colon crypts, a single sheet of epithelia cells, consist of a periodic pattern of stem cells, transit-amplifying cells, and terminally differentiated cells that constantly renew and turnover. Experimental evidence suggests that Wnt signaling promotes and regulates stem cell division, differentiation, and possible cell migrations while intestinal BMP signaling inhibits stem cell self-renewal and repression in crypt formation. As more molecular details on Wnt and BMP in crypts are being discovered, little is still known about how complex interactions among Wnt, BMP, and different types of cells, and surrounding environments may lead to de novo formation of multiple crypts or how such interactions affect regeneration and stability of crypts.
We present a mathematical model that contains Wnt and BMP, a cell lineage, and their feedback regulations to study formation, regeneration, and stability of multiple crypts. The computational explorations and linear stability analysis of the model suggest a reaction–diffusion mechanism, which exhibits a short-range activation of Wnt plus a long-range inhibition with modulation of BMP signals in a growing tissue of cell lineage, can account for spontaneous formation of multiple crypts with the spatial and temporal pattern observed in experiments. Through this mechanism, the model can recapitulate some distinctive and important experimental findings such as crypt regeneration and crypt multiplication. BMP is important in maintaining stability of crypts and loss of BMP usually leads to crypt multiplication with a fingering pattern.
The study provides a mechanism for de novo formation of multiple intestinal crypts and demonstrates a synergetic role of Wnt and BMP in regeneration and stability of intestinal crypts. The proposed model presents a robust framework for studying spatial and temporal dynamics of cell lineages in growing tissues driven by multiple signaling molecules.
Network motifs provided a “conceptual tool” for understanding the functional principles of biological networks, but such motifs have primarily been used to consider static network structures. Static networks, however, cannot be used to reveal time- and region-specific traits of biological systems. To overcome this limitation, we proposed the concept of a “spatiotemporal network motif,” a spatiotemporal sequence of network motifs of sub-networks which are active only at specific time points and body parts.
On the basis of this concept, we analyzed the developmental gene regulatory network of the Drosophila melanogaster embryo. We identified spatiotemporal network motifs and investigated their distribution pattern in time and space. As a result, we found how key developmental processes are temporally and spatially regulated by the gene network. In particular, we found that nested feedback loops appeared frequently throughout the entire developmental process. From mathematical simulations, we found that mutual inhibition in the nested feedback loops contributes to the formation of spatial expression patterns.
Taken together, the proposed concept and the simulations can be used to unravel the design principle of developmental gene regulatory networks.
The view of biology as goal-directed engineering has deep historical roots in developmental biology, a field currently benefitting from an influx of ideas and methods from systems biology. Systems biology draws on non-biological paradigms to explain developmental mechanisms of control, the specific type of regulation that achieves or maintains a desired end. This review highlights some of the current efforts designed to elucidate basic design principles underlying the engineering objectives of robustness, precision, and scaling that are required during developmental control of growth and pattern formation. Examples from vertebrate and invertebrate development are used to illustrate general principles including the value of integral feedback in achieving set-point control; the usefulness of self-organizing behavior; the importance of recognizing and appropriately handling noise; and the No Free Lunch theory. Through the examination of such principles, systems biology offers a functional framework to make sense of the mechanistic complexity of organismal development.
nipbl-deficient zebrafish provide evidence that heart and gut defects in Cornelia de Lange Syndrome are caused by combined effects of multiple gene expression changes that occur during early embryonic development.
Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) is the founding member of a class of multi-organ system birth defect syndromes termed cohesinopathies, named for the chromatin-associated protein complex cohesin, which mediates sister chromatid cohesion. Most cases of CdLS are caused by haploinsufficiency for Nipped-B-like (Nipbl), a highly conserved protein that facilitates cohesin loading. Consistent with recent evidence implicating cohesin and Nipbl in transcriptional regulation, both CdLS cell lines and tissues of Nipbl-deficient mice show changes in the expression of hundreds of genes. Nearly all such changes are modest, however—usually less than 1.5-fold—raising the intriguing possibility that, in CdLS, severe developmental defects result from the collective action of many otherwise innocuous perturbations. As a step toward testing this hypothesis, we developed a model of nipbl-deficiency in zebrafish, an organism in which we can quantitatively investigate the combinatorial effects of gene expression changes. After characterizing the structure and embryonic expression of the two zebrafish nipbl genes, we showed that morpholino knockdown of these genes produces a spectrum of specific heart and gut/visceral organ defects with similarities to those in CdLS. Analysis of nipbl morphants further revealed that, as early as gastrulation, expression of genes involved in endodermal differentiation (sox32, sox17, foxa2, and gata5) and left-right patterning (spaw, lefty2, and dnah9) is altered. Experimental manipulation of the levels of several such genes—using RNA injection or morpholino knockdown—implicated both additive and synergistic interactions in causing observed developmental defects. These findings support the view that birth defects in CdLS arise from collective effects of quantitative changes in gene expression. Interestingly, both the phenotypes and gene expression changes in nipbl morphants differed from those in mutants or morphants for genes encoding cohesin subunits, suggesting that the transcriptional functions of Nipbl cannot be ascribed simply to its role in cohesin loading.
Although best known for its role in chromatid cohesion, cohesin is increasingly seen as a regulator of gene expression. In Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS), partial deficiency for NIPBL, which encodes a cohesin regulator, is associated with small changes in the expression of many genes (similar effects are seen in Nipbl-deficient mice and flies). Are such changes responsible for pervasive developmental defects in CdLS? To address this, we used morpholino oligonucleotides to quantitatively reduce levels of Nipbl protein and Nipbl target genes in zebrafish embryos. Combined knockdown of both zebrafish nipbl genes produced heart and gut defects with similarities to those observed in CdLS. Nipbl-deficient embryos showed quantitative changes in the expression of several genes involved in the specification of endoderm, which both gives rise to gut and provides a substrate for cardiac precursor migration, as well as genes that regulate left-right asymmetry. Functional studies of these putative targets suggest that changes in their expression collectively, and in some cases synergistically, contribute to the observed phenotypes. These findings suggest that birth defects in CdLS result from combinatorial, quantitative effects of NIPBL on gene expression, and suggest that cardiac and visceral organ defects in CdLS arise during early embryonic development.
A culture's icons are a window onto its soul. Few would disagree that, in the culture of molecular biology that dominated much of the life sciences for the last third of the 20th century, the dominant icon was the double helix. In the present, post-modern, 'systems biology' era, however, it is, arguably, the hairball.
Developmental biology, regenerative medicine and cancer biology are increasingly occupied with the molecular characterization of stem cells. Yet recent work adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that 'stemness' cannot be reduced to the molecular features of cell types, and is instead an emergent property of cell lineages under feedback control.
Studies of developing and self-renewing tissues have shown that differentiated cell types are typically specified through the actions of multistage cell lineages. Such lineages commonly include a stem cell and multiple progenitor (transit amplifying; TA) cell stages, which ultimately give rise to terminally differentiated (TD) cells. In several cases, self-renewal and differentiation of stem and progenitor cells within such lineages have been shown to be under feedback regulation. Together, the existence of multiple cell stages within a lineage and complex feedback regulation are thought to confer upon a tissue the ability to autoregulate development and regeneration, in terms of both cell number (total tissue volume) and cell identity (the proportions of different cell types, especially TD cells, within the tissue). In this paper, we model neurogenesis in the olfactory epithelium (OE) of the mouse, a system in which the lineage stages and mediators of feedback regulation that govern the generation of terminally differentiated olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) have been the subject of much experimental work. Here we report on the existence and uniqueness of steady states in this system, as well as local and global stability of these steady states. In particular, we identify parameter conditions for the stability of the system when negative feedback loops are represented either as Hill functions, or in more general terms. Our results suggest that two factors – autoregulation of the proliferation of transit amplifying (TA) progenitor cells, and a low death rate of TD cells – enhance the stability of this system.
cell lineage; olfactory epithelium; neurogenesis; feedback; stem cell; transit amplifying cell; terminally differentiated cell; neuronal progenitor; stability; modeling
Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) is a multi-organ system birth defects disorder linked, in at least half of cases, to heterozygous mutations in the NIPBL gene. In animals and fungi, orthologs of NIPBL regulate cohesin, a complex of proteins that is essential for chromosome cohesion and is also implicated in DNA repair and transcriptional regulation. Mice heterozygous for a gene-trap mutation in Nipbl were produced and exhibited defects characteristic of CdLS, including small size, craniofacial anomalies, microbrachycephaly, heart defects, hearing abnormalities, delayed bone maturation, reduced body fat, behavioral disturbances, and high mortality (75–80%) during the first weeks of life. These phenotypes arose despite a decrease in Nipbl transcript levels of only ∼30%, implying extreme sensitivity of development to small changes in Nipbl activity. Gene expression profiling demonstrated that Nipbl deficiency leads to modest but significant transcriptional dysregulation of many genes. Expression changes at the protocadherin beta (Pcdhb) locus, as well as at other loci, support the view that NIPBL influences long-range chromosomal regulatory interactions. In addition, evidence is presented that reduced expression of genes involved in adipogenic differentiation may underlie the low amounts of body fat observed both in Nipbl+/− mice and in individuals with CdLS.
Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) is a genetic disease marked by growth retardation, cognitive and neurological problems, and structural defects in many organ systems. The majority of CdLS cases are due to mutation of one copy of the Nipped B-like (NIPBL) gene, the product of which regulates a complex of chromosomal proteins called cohesin. How reduction of NIPBL function gives rise to pervasive developmental defects in CdLS is not understood, so a model of CdLS was developed by generating mice that carry one null allele of Nipbl. Developmental defects in these mice show remarkable similarity to those observed in individuals with CdLS, including small stature, craniofacial abnormalities, reduced body fat, behavioral disturbances, and high perinatal mortality. Molecular analysis of tissues and cells from Nipbl mutant mice provide the first evidence that the major role of Nipbl in the etiology of CdLS is to exert modest, but significant, effects on the expression of diverse sets of genes, some of which are located in characteristic arrangements along the DNA. Among affected genes is a set involved in the development of adipocytes, the cells that make and accumulate body fat, potentially explaining reductions in body fat accumulation commonly observed in individuals with CdLS.