A maternal Smad protein regulates early embryonic apoptosis in Xenopus laevis.
ABSTRACT: We identified cDNAs encoding the Xenopus Smad proteins most closely related to mammalian Smad8, and we present a functional analysis of this activity (also referred to recently as xSmad11). Misexpression experiments indicate that xSmad8(11) regulates pathways distinct from those regulated by the closely related xSmad1. Embryos that develop from eggs depleted of xSmad8(11) mRNA fail to gastrulate; instead, at the time of gastrulation, they initiate a widespread program of apoptosis, via a CPP32/caspase 3 pathway. Embryos that avoid this fate display gastrulation defects. Activation of apoptosis is rescued by expression of xSmad8(11) but not xSmad1. Our results demonstrate an embryonic requirement for Smad8(11) activity and show that a maternally derived Smad signaling pathway is required for gastrulation and for mediating a cell survival program during early embryogenesis. We suggest that xSmad8(11) functions as part of a maternally derived mechanism shown previously by others to monitor Xenopus early embryonic cell cycles.
Project description:Incompatibilities between the nucleus and the cytoplasm of sufficiently distant species result in developmental arrest of hybrid and nucleocytoplasmic hybrid (cybrid) embryos. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain their lethality, including problems in embryonic genome activation (EGA) and/or nucleo-mitochondrial interactions. However, conclusive identification of the causes underlying developmental defects of cybrid embryos is still lacking. We show here that while over 80% of both Xenopus laevis and Xenopus (Silurana) tropicalis same-species androgenetic haploids develop to the swimming tadpole stage, the androgenetic cybrids formed by the combination of X. laevis egg cytoplasm and X. tropicalis sperm nucleus invariably fail to gastrulate properly and never reach the swimming tadpole stage. In spite of this arrest, these cybrids show quantitatively normal EGA and energy levels at the stage where their initial gastrulation defects are manifested. The nucleocytoplasmic incompatibility between these two species instead results from a combination of factors, including a reduced emission of induction signal from the vegetal half, a decreased sensitivity of animal cells to induction signals, and differences in a key embryonic protein (Xbra) concentration between the two species, together leading to inefficient induction and defective convergence-extension during gastrulation. Indeed, increased exposure to induction signals and/or Xbra signalling partially rescues the induction response in animal explants and whole cybrid embryos. Altogether, our study demonstrates that the egg cytoplasm of one species may not support the development promoted by the nucleus of another species, even if this nucleus does not interfere with the cytoplasmic/maternal functions of the egg, while the egg cytoplasm is also capable of activating the genome of that nucleus. Instead, our results provide evidence that inefficient signalling and differences in the concentrations of key proteins between species lead to developmental defects in cybrids. Finally, they show that the incompatibilities of cybrids can be corrected by appropriate treatments.
Project description:Epithelia containing multiciliated cells align beating cilia along a common planar axis specified by the conserved planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway. Specification of the planar axis is also thought to require a long-range cue to align the axis globally, but the nature of this cue in ciliated and other epithelia remains poorly understood. We examined this issue using the Xenopus larval skin, where ciliary flow aligns to the anterior-posterior (A-P) axis. We first show that a planar axis initially arises in the developing skin during gastrulation, based on the appearance of polarized apical microtubules and cell junctions with increased levels of stable PCP components. This axis also arises in severely ventralized embryos, despite their deficient embryonic patterning. Because ventralized embryos still gastrulate, producing a mechanical force that strains the developing skin along the A-P axis, we asked whether this strain alone drives global planar patterning. Isolated skin explanted before gastrulation lacks strain and fails to acquire a global planar axis but responds to exogenous strain by undergoing cell elongation, forming polarized apical microtubules, and aligning stable components of the PCP pathway orthogonal to the axis of strain. The planar axis in embryos can be redirected by applying exogenous strain during a critical period around gastrulation. Finally, we provide evidence that apical microtubules and the PCP pathway interact to align the planar axis. These results indicate that oriented tissue strain generated by the gastrulating mesoderm plays a major role in determining the global axis of planar polarity of the developing skin.
Project description:In a search for binding partners to Smad8, we identified the chicken homologue of the mammalian Tid1 protein (cTid1), which is a regulator of apoptosis related to the Drosophila tumour suppressor Tid56. The cTid1 coding sequence is highly conserved with mammalian Tid1, including the DnaJ domain that interacts with Hsp70 (heat-shock protein 70). The cTid1 gene is widely expressed with transcripts enriched in the developing blood islands of the embryonic-yolk sac. We show that cTid1 can bind to other members of the Smad family and that highest binding activity occurs with the negative regulatory Smad7, through the conserved MH2 domain. This interaction can have functional relevance in vivo, since co-expression of Tid1 blocks the dorsalizing and BMP (bone morphogenetic protein)-dependent regulatory activity of Smad7 in developing Xenopus embryos. The finding that these proteins can interact suggests the potential for linking two important cell survival/apoptosis pathways.
Project description:We have isolated a cDNA clone encoding the Xenopus homologue of the transcription factor AP-2 (XAP-2). The predicted amino acid sequence derived from the Xenopus cDNA shows very strong conservation with the amino acid sequence of human AP-2, suggesting that this protein is evolutionarily conserved, at least among vertebrates. This is further substantiated by the demonstration that an in vitro translation product of XAP-2 cDNA bound specifically to an AP-2 binding site from the human MT-IIA gene. Northern blot analysis of Xenopus embryo RNA revealed the existence of three major XAP-2 mRNA species that were only detectable after the midblastula transition (when embryonic transcription is activated), with peak accumulation of the transcripts occurring during gastrulation. Therefore, in contrast to other Xenopus transcription factors, XAP-2 is not maternally derived but arises exclusively from zygotic transcription. Unlike the situation in cultured human teratocarcinoma (NT2) cells, retinoic acid treatment did not induce XAP-2 mRNA in Xenopus embryos, even though the treatment had a pronounced morphogenetic effect on the embryos. Our results suggest that XAP-2 may play a distinctive role during Xenopus embryogenesis.
Project description:Smad proteins are critical intracellular mediators of signaling by growth and differentiation factors of the transforming growth factor beta superfamily. We have isolated a member of the Smad family, Smad8, from a rat brain cDNA library and biochemically and functionally characterized its ability to transduce signals from serine kinase receptors. In Xenopus embryo, Smad8 is able to transcriptionally activate a subset of mesoderm target genes similar to those induced by the receptor serine kinase, activin receptor-like kinase (ALK)-2. Smad8 can be specifically phosphorylated by a constitutively active ALK-2 but not the related receptor serine kinase, ALK-4. In response to signaling from ALK-2, Smad8 associates with a common regulatory molecule, Smad4, and this association leads to a synergistic effect on gene transcription. Furthermore, Smad8 is able to rescue the expression of mesoderm genes blocked by truncated ALK-2 in the embryo. These results indicate that Smad8 can function as a downstream signaling mediator of ALK-2.
Project description:Tgif1 and Tgif2 are transcriptional co-repressors that limit the response to TGFbeta signaling and play a role in regulating retinoic-acid-mediated gene expression. Mutations in human TGIF1 are associated with holoprosencephaly, but it is unclear whether this is a result of deregulation of TGFbeta/Nodal signaling, or of effects on other pathways. Surprisingly, mutation of Tgif1 in mice results in only relatively mild developmental phenotypes in most strain backgrounds. Here, we show that loss-of-function mutations in both Tgif1 and Tgif2 result in a failure of gastrulation. By conditionally deleting Tgif1 in the epiblast, we demonstrate that a single wild-type allele of Tgif1 in the extra-embryonic tissue allows the double null embryos to gastrulate and begin organogenesis, suggesting that extra-embryonic Tgif function is required for patterning the epiblast. Genetically reducing the dose of Nodal in embryos lacking all Tgif function results in partial rescue of the gastrulation defects. Conditional double null embryos have defects in left-right asymmetry, which are also alleviated by reducing the dose of Nodal. Together, these data show that Tgif function is required for gastrulation, and provide the first clear evidence that Tgifs limit the transcriptional response to Nodal signaling during early embryogenesis.
Project description:Nodal signaling, mediated through SMAD transcription factors, is necessary for pluripotency maintenance and endoderm commitment. We identified a new motif, termed SMAD complex-associated (SCA), that is bound by SMAD2/3/4 and FOXH1 in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and derived endoderm. We demonstrate that two basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) proteins-HEB and E2A-bind the SCA motif at regions overlapping SMAD2/3 and FOXH1. Furthermore, we show that HEB and E2A associate with SMAD2/3 and FOXH1, suggesting they form a complex at critical target regions. This association is biologically important, as E2A is critical for mesendoderm specification, gastrulation, and Nodal signal transduction in Xenopus tropicalis embryos. Taken together, E proteins are novel Nodal signaling cofactors that associate with SMAD2/3 and FOXH1 and are necessary for mesendoderm differentiation.
Project description:Nodal signaling, mediated through SMAD transcription factors, is necessary for pluripotency maintenance and endoderm commitment. We have identified a new motif, termed SMAD Complex Associated (SCA) that is bound by SMAD2/3/4 and FOXH1 in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and derived endoderm. We demonstrate that two bHLH proteins - HEB and E2A - bind the SCA motif at regions overlapping SMAD2/3 and FOXH1. Further, we show that HEB and E2A associate with SMAD2/3 and FOXH1, suggesting they form a complex at critical target regions. This association is biologically important, as E2A is critical for mesendoderm specification, gastrulation, and Nodal signal transduction in Xenopus tropicalis embryos. Taken together, E2A is a novel Nodal signaling cofactor that associates with SMAD2/3 and FOXH1 and is necessary for mesendoderm differentiation. ChIP-seq of Smad2/3 and Input in X.tropicalis, stage 10.5 embryo.
Project description:The onset of gastrulation at the Mid-Blastula Transition can accompany profound changes in embryonic cell cycles including the introduction of gap phases and the transition from maternal to zygotic control. Studies in Xenopus and Drosophila embryos have also found that cell cycles respond to DNA damage differently before and after MBT (or its equivalent, MZT, in Drosophila). DNA checkpoints are absent in Xenopus cleavage cycles but are acquired during MBT. Drosophila cleavage nuclei enter an abortive mitosis in the presence of DNA damage whereas post-MZT cells delay the entry into mitosis. Despite attributes that render them workhorses of embryonic cell cycle studies, Xenopus and Drosophila are hardly representative of diverse animal forms that exist. To investigate developmental changes in DNA damage responses in a distant phylum, I studied the effect of an alkylating agent, Methyl Methanesulfonate (MMS), on embryos of Hydractinia echinata. Hydractinia embryos are found to differ from Xenopus embryos in the ability to respond to a DNA damaging agent in early cleavage but are similar to Xenopus and Drosophila embryos in acquiring stronger DNA damage responses and greater resistance to killing by MMS after the onset of gastrulation. This represents the first study of DNA damage responses in the phylum Cnidaria.