Induction and patterning of trunk and tail neural ectoderm by the homeobox gene eve1 in zebrafish embryos.
ABSTRACT: In vertebrates, Evx homeodomain transcription factor-encoding genes are expressed in the posterior region during embryonic development, and overexpression experiments have revealed roles in tail development in fish and frogs. We analyzed the molecular mechanisms of posterior neural development and axis formation regulated by eve1. We show that eve1 is involved in establishing trunk and tail neural ectoderm by two independent mechanisms: First, eve1 posteriorizes neural ectoderm via induction of aldh1a2, which encodes an enzyme that synthesizes retinoic acid; second, eve1 is involved in neural induction in the posterior ectoderm by attenuating BMP expression. Further, eve1 can restore trunk neural tube formation in the organizer-deficient ichabod(-/-) mutant. We conclude that eve1 is crucial for the organization of the antero-posterior and dorso-ventral axis in the gastrula ectoderm and also has trunk- and tail-promoting activity.
Project description:Studies in fish and amphibia have shown that graded Bmp signalling activity regulates dorsal-to-ventral (DV) patterning of the gastrula embryo. In the ectoderm, it is thought that high levels of Bmp activity promote epidermal development ventrally, whereas secreted Bmp antagonists emanating from the organiser induce neural tissue dorsally. However, in zebrafish embryos, the domain of cells destined to contribute to the spinal cord extends all the way to the ventral side of the gastrula, a long way from the organiser. We show that in vegetal (trunk and tail) regions of the zebrafish gastrula, neural specification is initiated at all DV positions of the ectoderm in a manner that is unaffected by levels of Bmp activity and independent of organiser-derived signals. Instead, we find that Fgf activity is required to induce vegetal prospective neural markers and can do so without suppressing Bmp activity. We further show that Bmp signalling does occur within the vegetal prospective neural domain and that Bmp activity promotes the adoption of caudal fate by this tissue.
Project description:OTX2 is a homeodomain transcription factor that is necessary for normal head development in mouse and man. Heterozygosity for loss-of-function alleles causes an incompletely penetrant, haploinsufficiency disorder. Affected individuals exhibit a spectrum of features that range from developmental defects in eye and/or pituitary development to acephaly. To investigate the mechanism underlying the pituitary defects, we used different cre lines to inactivate Otx2 in early head development and in the prospective anterior and posterior lobes. Mice homozygous for Otx2 deficiency in early head development and pituitary oral ectoderm exhibit craniofacial defects and pituitary gland dysmorphology, but normal pituitary cell specification. The morphological defects mimic those observed in humans and mice with OTX2 heterozygous mutations. Mice homozygous for Otx2 deficiency in the pituitary neural ectoderm exhibited altered patterning of gene expression and ablation of FGF signaling. The posterior pituitary lobe and stalk, which normally arise from neural ectoderm, were extremely hypoplastic. Otx2 expression was intact in Rathke's pouch, the precursor to the anterior lobe, but the anterior lobe was hypoplastic. The lack of FGF signaling from the neural ectoderm was sufficient to impair anterior lobe growth, but not the differentiation of hormone-producing cells. This study demonstrates that Otx2 expression in the neural ectoderm is important intrinsically for the development of the posterior lobe and pituitary stalk, and it has significant extrinsic effects on anterior pituitary growth. Otx2 expression early in head development is important for establishing normal craniofacial features including development of the brain, eyes and pituitary gland.
Project description:Wnt/?-catenin signaling is an ancient pathway in metazoans and controls various developmental processes, in particular the establishment and patterning of the embryonic primary axis. In vertebrates, a graded Wnt activity from posterior to anterior endows cells with positional information in the central nervous system. Recent studies in hemichordates support a conserved role for Wnt/?-catenin in ectoderm antero-posterior patterning at the base of the deuterostomes. Ascidians are marine invertebrates and the closest relatives of vertebrates. By combining gain- and loss-of-function approaches, we have determined the role of Wnt/?-catenin in patterning the three ectoderm derivatives of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis, central nervous system, peripheral nervous system and epidermis. Activating Wnt/?-catenin signaling from gastrulation led to a dramatic transformation of the ectoderm with a loss of anterior identities and a reciprocal anterior extension of posterior identities, consistent with studies in other metazoans. Surprisingly, inhibiting Wnt signaling did not produce a reciprocal anteriorization of the embryo with a loss of more posterior identities like in vertebrates and hemichordate. Epidermis patterning was overall unchanged. Only the identity of two discrete regions of the central nervous system, the anteriormost and the posteriormost regions, were under the control of Wnt. Finally, the caudal peripheral nervous system, while being initially Wnt dependent, formed normally. Our results show that the Ciona embryonic ectoderm responds to Wnt activation in a manner that is compatible with the proposed function for this pathway at the base of the deuterostomes. However, possibly because of its fast and divergent mode of development that includes extensive use of maternal determinants, the overall antero-posterior patterning of the Ciona ectoderm is Wnt independent, and Wnt/?-catenin signaling controls the formation of some sub-domains. Our results thus indicate that there has likely been a drift in the developmental systems controlling ectoderm patterning in the lineage leading to ascidians.
Project description:During vertebrate neurulation, the embryonic ectoderm is patterned into lineage progenitors for neural plate, neural crest, placodes and epidermis. Here, we use Xenopus laevis embryos to analyze the spatial and temporal transcriptome of distinct ectodermal domains in the course of neurulation, during the establishment of cell lineages. In order to define the transcriptome of small groups of cells from a single germ layer and to retain spatial information, dorsal and ventral ectoderm was subdivided along the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral axes by microdissections. Principal component analysis on the transcriptomes of these ectoderm fragments primarily identifies embryonic axes and temporal dynamics. This provides a genetic code to define positional information of any ectoderm sample along the anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral axes directly from its transcriptome. In parallel, we use nonnegative matrix factorization to predict enhanced gene expression maps onto early and mid-neurula embryos, and specific signatures for each ectoderm area. The clustering of spatial and temporal datasets allowed detection of multiple biologically relevant groups (e.g., Wnt signaling, neural crest development, sensory placode specification, ciliogenesis, germ layer specification). We provide an interactive network interface, EctoMap, for exploring synexpression relationships among genes expressed in the neurula, and suggest several strategies to use this comprehensive dataset to address questions in developmental biology as well as stem cell or cancer research.
Project description:The border between the posterior ectoderm and the endoderm is a location where two germ layers meet and establish an enduring relationship that also later serves, in deuterostomes, as the anatomical site of the anus. In the sea urchin, a prototypic deuterostome, the ectoderm-endoderm boundary is established before gastrulation, and ectodermal cells at the boundary are thought to provide patterning inputs to the underlying mesenchyme. Here we show that a short-range Wnt5 signal from the endoderm actively patterns the adjacent boundary ectoderm. This signal activates a unique subcircuit of the ectoderm gene regulatory network, including the transcription factors IrxA, Nk1, Pax2/5/8 and Lim1, which are ultimately restricted to subregions of the border ectoderm (BE). Surprisingly, Nodal and BMP2/4, previously shown to be activators of ectodermal specification and the secondary embryonic axis, instead restrict the expression of these genes to subregions of the BE. A detailed examination showed that endodermal Wnt5 functions as a short-range signal that activates only a narrow band of ectodermal cells, even though all ectoderm is competent to receive the signal. Thus, cells in the BE integrate positive and negative signals from both the primary and secondary embryonic axes to correctly locate and specify the border ectoderm.
Project description:The neural crest arises at the border between the neural plate and the adjacent non-neural ectoderm. It has been suggested that both neural and non-neural ectoderm can contribute to the neural crest. Several studies have examined the molecular mechanisms that regulate neural crest induction in neuralized tissues or the neural plate border. Here, using the chick as a model system, we address the molecular mechanisms by which non-neural ectoderm generates neural crest. We report that in response to FGF the non-neural ectoderm can ectopically express several early neural crest markers (Pax7, Msx1, Dlx5, Sox9, FoxD3, Snail2, and Sox10). Importantly this response to FGF signaling can occur without inducing ectopic mesodermal tissues. Furthermore, the non-neural ectoderm responds to FGF by expressing the prospective neural marker Sox3, but it does not express definitive markers of neural or anterior neural (Sox2 and Otx2) tissues. These results suggest that the non-neural ectoderm can launch the neural crest program in the absence of mesoderm, without acquiring definitive neural character. Finally, we report that prior to the upregulation of these neural crest markers, the non-neural ectoderm upregulates both BMP and Wnt molecules in response to FGF. Our results provide the first effort to understand the molecular events leading to neural crest development via the non-neural ectoderm in amniotes and present a distinct response to FGF signaling.
Project description:E protein transcription factors are crucial for many cell fate decisions. However, the roles of E proteins in the germ-layer specification of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are poorly understood. We disrupted the <i>TCF3</i> gene locus to delete the E protein E2A in hESCs. E2A knockout (KO) hESCs retained key features of pluripotency, but displayed decreased neural ectoderm coupled with enhanced mesoendoderm outcomes. Genome-wide analyses showed that E2A directly regulates neural ectoderm and Nodal pathway genes. Accordingly, inhibition of Nodal or E2A overexpression partially rescued the neural ectoderm defect in E2A KO hESCs. Loss of E2A had little impact on the epigenetic landscape of hESCs, whereas E2A KO neural precursors displayed increased accessibility of the gene locus encoding the Nodal agonist CRIPTO. Double-deletion of both E2A and HEB (<i>TCF12</i>) resulted in a more severe neural ectoderm defect. Therefore, this study reveals critical context-dependent functions for E2A in human neural ectoderm fate specification.
Project description:Wnt signaling regulates primary body axis formation across the Metazoa, with high Wnt signaling specifying posterior identity. Whether a common Wnt-driven transcriptional program accomplishes this broad role is poorly understood. We identified genes acutely affected after Wnt signaling inhibition in the posterior of two regenerative species, the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea and the acoel Hofstenia miamia, which are separated by >550 million years of evolution. Wnt signaling was found to maintain positional information in muscle and regional gene expression in multiple differentiated cell types. sp5, Hox genes, and Wnt pathway components are down-regulated rapidly after ?-catenin RNAi in both species. Brachyury, a vertebrate Wnt target, also displays Wnt-dependent expression in Hofstenia. sp5 inhibits trunk gene expression in the tail of planarians and acoels, promoting separate tail-trunk body domains. A planarian posterior Hox gene, Post-2d, promotes normal tail regeneration. We propose that common regulation of a small gene set-Hox, sp5, and Brachyury-might underlie the widespread utilization of Wnt signaling in primary axis patterning across the Bilateria.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The neural plate border ectoderm gives rise to key developmental structures during embryogenesis, including the neural crest and the preplacodal ectoderm. Many sensory organs and ganglia of vertebrates develop from cranial placodes, which themselves arise from preplacodal ectoderm, defined by expression of transcription factor Six1 and its coactivator Eya1. Here we elucidate the gene regulatory network underlying the specification of the preplacodal ectoderm in Xenopus, and the functional interactions among transcription factors that give rise to this structure.<h4>Results</h4>To elucidate the gene regulatory network upstream of preplacodal ectoderm formation, we use gain- and loss-of-function studies to explore the role of early ectodermal transcription factors for establishing the preplacodal ectoderm and adjacent ectodermal territories, and the role of Six1 and Eya1 in feedback regulation of these transcription factors. Our findings suggest that transcription factors with expression restricted to ventral (non-neural) ectoderm (AP2, Msx1, FoxI1, Vent2, Dlx3, GATA2) and those restricted to dorsal (neural) ectoderm (Pax3, Hairy2b, Zic1) are required for specification of both preplacodal ectoderm and neural crest in a context-dependent fashion and are cross-regulated by Eya1 and Six1.<h4>Conclusion</h4>These findings allow us to elucidate a detailed gene regulatory network at the neural plate border upstream of preplacodal ectoderm formation based on functional interactions between ectodermal transcription factors. We propose a new model to explain the formation of immediately juxtaposed preplacodal ectoderm and neural crest territories at the neural plate border, uniting previous models.
Project description:The arginine-glycine-aspartate (RGD) motif in fibronectin (FN) represents the major binding site for ?5?1 and ?v?3 integrins. Mice lacking a functional RGD motif in FN (FN(RGE/RGE)) or ?5 integrin develop identical phenotypes characterized by embryonic lethality and a severely shortened posterior trunk with kinked neural tubes. Here we show that the FN(RGE/RGE) embryos arrest both segmentation and axis elongation. The arrest is evident at about E9.0, corresponding to a stage when gastrulation ceases and the tail bud-derived presomitic mesoderm (PSM) induces ?5 integrin expression and assumes axis elongation. At this stage cells of the posterior part of the PSM in wild type embryos are tightly coordinated, express somitic oscillator and cyclic genes required for segmentation, and form a tapered tail bud that extends caudally. In contrast, the posterior PSM cells in FN(RGE/RGE) embryos lost their tight associations, formed a blunt tail bud unable to extend the body axis, failed to induce the synchronised expression of Notch1 and cyclic genes and cease the formation of new somites. Mechanistically, the interaction of PSM cells with the RGD motif of FN is required for dynamic formation of lamellipodia allowing motility and cell-cell contact formation, as these processes fail when wild type PSM cells are seeded into a FN matrix derived from FN(RGE/RGE) fibroblasts. Thus, ?5?1-mediated adhesion to FN in the PSM regulates the dynamics of membrane protrusions and cell-to-cell communication essential for elongation and segmentation of the body axis.