Compartmentalised expression of Delta-like 1 in epithelial somites is required for the formation of intervertebral joints.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Expression of the mouse Delta-like 1 (Dll1) gene in the presomitic mesoderm and in the caudal halves of somites of the developing embryo is required for the formation of epithelial somites and for the maintenance of caudal somite identity, respectively. The rostro-caudal polarity of somites is initiated early on within the presomitic mesoderm in nascent somites. Here we have investigated the requirement of restricted Dll1 expression in caudal somite compartments for the maintenance of rostro-caudal somite polarity and the morphogenesis of the axial skeleton. We did this by overexpressing a functional copy of the Dll1 gene throughout the paraxial mesoderm, in particular in anterior somite compartments, during somitogenesis in transgenic mice. RESULTS: Epithelial somites were generated normally and appeared histologically normal in embryos of two independent Dll1 over-expressing transgenic lines. Gene expression analyses of rostro-caudal marker genes suggested that over-expression of Dll1 without restriction to caudal compartments was not sufficient to confer caudal identity to rostral somite halves in transgenic embryos. Nevertheless, Dll1 over-expression caused dysmorphologies of the axial skeleton, in particular, in morphological structures that derive from the articular joint forming compartment of vertebrae. Accordingly, transgenic animals exhibited missing or reduced intervertebral discs, rostral and caudal articular processes as well as costal heads of ribs. In addition, the midline of the vertebral column did not develop normally. Transgenic mice had open neural arches and split vertebral bodies with ectopic pseudo-growth plates. Endochondral bone formation and ossification in the developing vertebrae were delayed. CONCLUSION: The mice overexpressing Dll1 exhibit skeletal dysmorphologies that are also evident in several mutant mice with defects in somite compartmentalisation. The Dll1 transgenic mice demonstrate that vertebral dysmorphologies such as bony fusions of vertebrae and midline vertebral defects can occur without apparent changes in somitic rostro-caudal marker gene expression. Also, we demonstrate that the over-expression of the Dll1 gene in rostral epithelial somites is not sufficient to confer caudal identity to rostral compartments. Our data suggest that the restricted Dll1 expression in caudal epithelial somites may be particularly required for the proper development of the intervertebral joint forming compartment.
Project description:Caudal regression syndrome (sacral agenesis), which impairs development of the caudal region of the body, occurs with a frequency of about 2 live births per 100 000 newborns although this incidence rises to 1 in 350 infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes. The lower back and limbs can be affected as well as the genitourinary and gastrointestinal tracts. The axial skeleton is formed during embryogenesis through the process of somitogenesis in which the paraxial mesoderm periodically segments into bilateral tissue blocks, called somites. Somites are the precursors of vertebrae and associated muscle, tendons and dorsal dermis. Vertebral anomalies in caudal regression syndrome may arise through perturbation of somitogenesis or, alternatively, could result from defective bone formation and patterning. We discovered that MBTPS1/SKI-1/S1P, which proteolytically activates a class of transmembrane transcription factors, plays a critical role in somitogenesis and the pathogenesis of lumbar/sacral vertebral anomalies. Conditional deletion of Mbtps1 yields a viable mouse with misshapen, fused and reduced number of lumbar and sacral vertebrae, under-developed hind limb bones and a kinky, shortened tail. We show that Mbtps1 is required to (i) maintain the Fgf8 'wavefront' in the presomitic mesoderm that underpins axial elongation, (ii) sustain the Lfng oscillatory 'clock' activity that governs the periodicity of somite formation and (iii) preserve the composition and character of the somitic extracellular matrix containing fibronectin, fibrillin2 and laminin. Based on this spinal phenotype and known functions of MBTPS1, we reason that loss-of-function mutations in Mbtps1 may cause the etiology of caudal regression syndrome.
Project description:The vertebral skeleton is a defining feature of vertebrate animals. However, the mode of vertebral segmentation varies considerably between major lineages. In tetrapods, adjacent somite halves recombine to form a single vertebra through the process of 'resegmentation'. In teleost fishes, there is considerable mixing between cells of the anterior and posterior somite halves, without clear resegmentation. To determine whether resegmentation is a tetrapod novelty, or an ancestral feature of jawed vertebrates, we tested the relationship between somites and vertebrae in a cartilaginous fish, the skate (<i>Leucoraja erinacea</i>). Using cell lineage tracing, we show that skate trunk vertebrae arise through tetrapod-like resegmentation, with anterior and posterior halves of each vertebra deriving from adjacent somites. We further show that tail vertebrae also arise through resegmentation, though with a duplication of the number of vertebrae per body segment. These findings resolve axial resegmentation as an ancestral feature of the jawed vertebrate body plan.
Project description:Segmentation of the vertebrate body axis is established in the embryo by formation of somites, which give rise to the axial muscles (myotome) and vertebrae (sclerotome). To allow a muscle to attach to two successive vertebrae, the myotome and sclerotome must be repositioned by half a segment with respect to each other. Two main models have been put forward: 'resegmentation' proposes that each half-sclerotome joins with the half-sclerotome from the next adjacent somite to form a vertebra containing cells from two successive somites on each side of the midline. The second model postulates that a single vertebra is made from a single somite and that the sclerotome shifts with respect to the myotome. There is conflicting evidence for these models, and the possibility that the mechanism may vary along the vertebral column has not been considered. Here we use DiI and DiO to trace somite contributions to the vertebrae in different axial regions in the chick embryo. We demonstrate that vertebral bodies and neural arches form by resegmentation but that sclerotome cells shift in a region-specific manner according to their dorsoventral position within a segment. We propose a 'resegmentation-shift' model as the mechanism for amniote vertebral patterning.
Project description:The formation of body segments (somites) in vertebrate embryos is accompanied by molecular oscillations (segmentation clock). Interaction of this oscillator with a wave traveling along the body axis (the clock-and-wavefront model) is generally believed to control somite number, size, and axial identity. Here we show that a clock-and-wavefront mechanism is unnecessary for somite formation. Non-somite mesoderm treated with Noggin generates many somites that form simultaneously, without cyclic expression of Notch-pathway genes, yet have normal size, shape, and fate. These somites have axial identity: The Hox code is fixed independently of somite fate. However, these somites are not subdivided into rostral and caudal halves, which is necessary for neural segmentation. We propose that somites are self-organizing structures whose size and shape is controlled by local cell-cell interactions.
Project description:Vertebral number is the most variable trait among vertebrates. In addition to the vertebral number, the ratio of abdominal to caudal vertebrae is a variable trait. The vertebral number and the ratio of abdominal to caudal vertebrae contribute to vertebrate diversity. It is very interesting to know how to determine the vertebral number and the ratio of abdominal to caudal vertebrae. In this study, we identify differences in the vertebral number and the ratio of abdominal vertebrae to vertebral number between two inbred lines of medaka, namely, Hd-rRII1 and Kaga. To identify the genetic factor of those differences, we performed quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis for vertebral number and the ratio of abdominal vertebrae to vertebral number using 200 F(2) fish. Our results show a suggestive QTL of the ratio of abdominal vertebrae to vertebral number on chromosome 15, and five QTL of vertebral number on chromosomes 1, 10, 11, 17, and 23. The QTL on chromosome 15 contains hoxDb cluster genes. The QTL of vertebral number include some genes related to the segmentation clock and axial elongation. In addition, we show that the difference in vertebral number between two inbred lines is derived from differences in the anteroposterior length of somites. Our results emphasize that the developmental process should be considered in genetic analyses for vertebral number.
Project description:Somitogenesis and subsequent axial skeletal development is regulated by the interaction of pathways that determine the periodicity of somite formation, rostrocaudal somite polarity and segment identity. Here we use a hypomorphic mutant mouse line to demonstrate that Supt20 (Suppressor of Ty20) is required for development of the axial skeleton. Supt20 hypomorphs display fusions of the ribs and vertebrae at lower thoracic levels along with anterior homeotic transformation of L1 to T14. These defects are preceded by reduction of the rostral somite and posterior shifts in Hox gene expression. While cycling of Notch target genes in the posterior presomitic mesoderm (PSM) appeared normal, expression of Lfng was reduced. In the anterior PSM, Mesp2 expression levels and cycling were unaffected; yet, expression of downstream targets such as Lfng, Ripply2, Mesp1 and Dll3 in the prospective rostral somite was reduced accompanied by expansion of caudal somite markers such as EphrinB2 and Hes7. Supt20 interacts with the Gcn5-containing SAGA histone acetylation complex. Gcn5 hypomorphic mutant embryos show similar defects in axial skeletal development preceded by posterior shift of Hoxc8 and Hoxc9 gene expression. We demonstrate that Gcn5 and Supt20 hypomorphs show similar defects in rostral-caudal somite patterning potentially suggesting shared mechanisms.
Project description:The vertebral column is a key component of the jawed vertebrate (gnathostome) body plan, but the primitive embryonic origin of this skeleton remains unclear. In tetrapods, all vertebral components (neural arches, haemal arches and centra) derive from paraxial mesoderm (somites). However, in teleost fishes, vertebrae have a dual embryonic origin, with arches derived from somites, but centra formed, in part, by secretion of bone matrix from the notochord. Here, we test the embryonic origin of the vertebral skeleton in a cartilaginous fish (the skate, Leucoraja erinacea) which serves as an outgroup to tetrapods and teleosts. We demonstrate, by cell lineage tracing, that both arches and centra are somite-derived. We find no evidence of cellular or matrix contribution from the notochord to the skate vertebral skeleton. These findings indicate that the earliest gnathostome vertebral skeleton was exclusively of somitic origin, with a notochord contribution arising secondarily in teleosts.
Project description:The Notch-regulated ankyrin repeat protein (Nrarp) is a component of a negative feedback system that attenuates Notch pathway-mediated signaling. In vertebrates, the timing and spacing of formation of the mesodermal somites are controlled by a molecular oscillator termed the segmentation clock. Somites are also patterned along the rostral-caudal axis of the embryo. Here, we demonstrate that Nrarp-deficient embryos and mice exhibit genetic background-dependent defects of the axial skeleton. While progression of the segmentation clock occurred in Nrarp-deficient embryos, they exhibited altered rostrocaudal patterning of the somites. In Nrarp mutant embryos, the posterior somite compartment was expanded. These studies confirm an anticipated, but previously undocumented role for the Nrarp gene in vertebrate somite patterning and provide an example of the strong influence that genetic background plays on the phenotypes exhibited by mutant mice.
Project description:Vertebrate segmentation is regulated by the "segmentation clock", which drives cyclic expression of several genes in the caudal presomitic mesoderm (PSM). One such gene is Lunatic fringe (Lfng), which encodes a modifier of Notch signalling, and which is also expressed in a stripe at the cranial end of the PSM, adjacent to the newly forming somite border. We have investigated the functional requirements for these modes of Lfng expression during somitogenesis by generating mice in which Lfng is expressed in the cranial stripe but strongly reduced in the caudal PSM, and find that requirements for Lfng activity alter during axial growth. Formation of cervical, thoracic and lumbar somites/vertebrae, but not sacral and adjacent tail somites/vertebrae, depends on caudal, cyclic Lfng expression. Indeed, the sacral region segments normally in the complete absence of Lfng and shows a reduced requirement for another oscillating gene, Hes7, indicating that the architecture of the clock alters as segmentation progresses. We present evidence that Lfng controls dorsal-ventral axis specification in the tail, and also suggest that Lfng controls the expression or activity of a long-range signal that regulates axial extension.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Myf5 is one member of the basic helix-loop-helix family of transcription factors, and it functions as a myogenic factor that is important for the specification and differentiation of muscle cells. The expression of myf5 is somite- and stage-dependent during embryogenesis through a delicate regulation. However, this complex regulatory mechanism of myf5 is not clearly understood.<h4>Results</h4>We isolated a 156-kb bacterial artificial chromosome clone that includes an upstream 80-kb region and a downstream 70-kb region of zebrafish myf5 and generated a transgenic line carrying this 156-kb segment fused to a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter gene. We find strong GFP expression in the most rostral somite and in the presomitic mesoderm during segmentation stages, similar to endogenous myf5 expression. Later, the GFP signals persist in caudal somites near the tail bud but are down-regulated in the older, rostral somites. During the pharyngula period, we detect GFP signals in pectoral fin buds, dorsal rostral myotomes, hypaxial myotomes, and inferior oblique and superior oblique muscles, a pattern that also corresponds well with endogenous myf5 transcripts. To characterize the specific upstream cis-elements that regulate this complex and dynamic expression pattern, we also generated several transgenic lines that harbor various lengths within the upstream 80-kb segment. We find that (1) the -80 kb/-9977 segment contains a fin and cranial muscle element and a notochord repressor; (2) the -9977/-6213 segment contains a strong repressive element that does not include the notochord-specific repressor; (3) the -6212/-2938 segment contains tissue-specific elements for bone and spinal cord; (4) the -2937/-291 segment contains an eye enhancer, and the -2937/-2457 segment is required for notochord and myocyte expression; and (5) the -290/-1 segment is responsible for basal transcription in somites and the presomitic mesoderm.<h4>Conclusion</h4>We suggest that the cell lineage-specific expression of myf5 is delicately orchestrated by multiple modules within the distal upstream region. This study provides an insight to understand the molecular control of myf5 and myogenesis in the zebrafish.