ABSTRACT: Retinoic acid (RA) has several established functions during cardiac development, including actions in the fetal epicardium required for myocardial growth. An open question is if retinoid effects are limited to growth factor stimulation pathway(s) or if additional actions on uncommitted progenitor/stem populations might drive cardiac differentiation. Here we report the dual effects of RA deficiency on cardiac growth factor signaling and progenitor/stem biology using the mouse retinaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (Raldh2) knockout model. Although early heart defects in Raldh2(-/-) embryos result from second-heart-field abnormalities, it is unclear whether this role is transient or whether RA has sustained effects on cardiac progenitors. To address this, we used transient maternal RA supplementation to overcome early Raldh2(-/-) lethality. By embryonic day 11.5-14.5, Raldh2(-/-) hearts exhibited reduced venticular compact layer outgrowth and altered coronary vessel development. Although reductions in Fgf2 and target pERK levels occurred, no alterations in Wnt/beta-catenin expression were observed. Cell proliferation is increased in compact zone myocardium, whereas cardiomyocyte differentiation is reduced, alterations that suggest progenitor defects. We report that the fetal heart contains a reservoir of stem/progenitor cells, which can be isolated by their ability to efflux a fluorescent dye and that retinoid signaling acts on this fetal cardiac side population (SP). Raldh2(-/-) hearts display increased SP cell numbers, with selective increases in expression of cardiac progenitor cell markers and reduced differentiation marker levels. Hence, although lack of RA signaling increases cardiac SP numbers, simultaneous reductions in Fgf signaling reduce cardiomyocyte differentiation, possibly accounting for long-term defects in myocardial growth.
Project description:Retinoic acid (RA), the active derivative of vitamin A, has been implicated in various steps of cardiovascular development. The retinaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (RALDH2) enzyme catalyzes the second oxidative step in RA biosynthesis and its loss of function creates a severe embryonic RA deficiency. Raldh2(-/-) knockout embryos fail to undergo heart looping and have impaired atrial and sinus venosus development. To understand the mechanism(s) producing these changes, we examined the contribution of the second heart field (SHF) to pharyngeal mesoderm, atria, and outflow tract in Raldh2(-/-) embryos. RA deficiency alters SHF gene expression in two ways. First, Raldh2(-/-) embryos exhibited a posterior expansion of anterior markers of the SHF, including Tbx1, Fgf8, and the Mlc1v-nlacZ-24/Fgf10 reporter transgene as well as of Islet1. This occurred at early somite stages, when cardiac defects became irreversible in an avian vitamin A-deficiency model, indicating that endogenous RA is required to restrict the SHF posteriorly. Explant studies showed that this expanded progenitor population cannot differentiate properly. Second, RA up-regulated cardiac Bmp expression levels at the looping stage. The contribution of the SHF to both inflow and outflow poles was perturbed under RA deficiency, creating a disorganization of the heart tube. We also investigated genetic cross-talk between Nkx2.5 and RA signaling by generating double mutant mice. Strikingly, Nkx2.5 deficiency was able to rescue molecular defects in the posterior region of the Raldh2(-/-) mutant heart, in a gene dosage-dependent manner.
Project description:Studies in avian models have demonstrated an involvement of retinoid signaling in early neural tube patterning. The roles of this signaling pathway at later stages of spinal cord development are only partly characterized. Here we use Raldh2-null mouse mutants rescued from early embryonic lethality to study the consequences of lack of endogenous retinoic acid (RA) in the differentiating spinal cord. Mid-gestation RA deficiency produces prominent structural and molecular deficiencies in dorsal regions of the spinal cord. While targets of Wnt signaling in the dorsal neuronal lineage are unaltered, reductions in Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) and Notch signaling are clearly observed. We further provide evidence that endogenous RA is capable of driving stem cell differentiation. Raldh2 deficiency results in a decreased number of spinal cord derived neurospheres, which exhibit a reduced differentiation potential. Raldh2-null neurospheres have a decreased number of cells expressing the neuronal marker ?-III-tubulin, while the nestin-positive cell population is increased. Hence, in vivo retinoid deficiency impaired neural stem cell growth. We propose that RA has separable functions in the developing spinal cord to (i) maintain high levels of FGF and Notch signaling and (ii) drive stem cell differentiation, thus restricting both the numbers and the pluripotent character of neural stem cells.
Project description:Epicardial-derived signals are key regulators of cardiac embryonic development. An important part of these signals is known to relate to a retinoic acid (RA) receptor-dependent mechanism. RA is a potent morphogen synthesised by Raldh enzymes, Raldh2 being the predominant one in mesodermal tissues. Despite the importance of epicardial retinoid signalling in the heart, the molecular mechanisms controlling cardiac Raldh2 transcription remain unknown. In the current study, we show that Wt1-null epicardial cells display decreased expression of Raldh2 both in vivo and in vitro. Using a RA-responsive reporter, we have confirmed that Wt1-null epicardial cells actually show reduced synthesis of RA. We also demonstrate that Raldh2 is a direct transcriptional target of Wt1 in epicardial cells. A secondary objective of this study was to identify the status of RA-related receptors previously reported to be critical to epicardial biology (PDGFR?,?; RXR?). PDGFR? and PDGFR? mRNA and protein levels are downregulated in the absence of Wt1, but only Pdgfra expression is rescued by the addition of RA to Wt1-null epicardial cells. RXR? mRNA levels are not affected in Wt1-null epicardial cells. Taken together, our results indicate that Wt1 critically regulates epicardial RA signalling via direct activation of the Raldh2 gene, and identify a role for Wt1 in the regulation of morphogen receptors involved in the proliferation, migration, and differentiation of epicardial and epicardially-derived cells (EPDC).
Project description:Loss of Tbx1 and decrease of retinoic acid (RA) synthesis result in DiGeorge/velocardiofacial syndrome (DGS/VCFS)-like phenotypes in mouse models, including defects in septation of the outflow tract of the heart and anomalies of pharyngeal arch-derived structures including arteries of the head and neck, laryngeal-tracheal cartilage, and thymus/parathyroid. Wild-type levels of T-box transcription factor (Tbx)1 and RA signaling are required for normal pharyngeal arch artery development. Recent studies have shown that reduction of RA or loss of Tbx1 alters the contribution of second heart field (SHF) progenitor cells to the elongating heart tube.Here we tested whether Tbx1 and the RA signaling pathway interact during the deployment of the SHF and formation of the mature aortic arch.Molecular markers of the SHF, neural crest and smooth muscle cells, were analyzed in Raldh2;Tbx1 compound heterozygous mutants. Our results revealed that the SHF and outflow tract develop normally in Raldh2(+/-);Tbx1(+/-) embryos. However, we found that decreased levels of RA accelerate the recovery from arterial growth delay observed in Tbx1(+/-) mutant embryos. This compensation coincides with the differentiation of smooth muscle cells in the 4th pharyngeal arch arteries, and is associated with severity of neural crest cell migration defects observed in these mutants.Our data suggest that differences in levels of embryonic RA may contribute to the variability in great artery anomalies observed in DGS/VCFS patients.
Project description:Human embryos exposed to alcohol (ethanol) develop a complex developmental phenotype known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). In Xenopus embryos, ethanol reduces the levels of retinoic acid (RA) signaling during gastrulation. RA, a metabolite of vitamin A (retinol), is required for vertebrate embryogenesis, and deviation from its normal levels results in developmental malformations. Retinaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (RALDH2) is required to activate RA signaling at the onset of gastrulation. We studied the effect of alcohol on embryogenesis by manipulating retinaldehyde dehydrogenase activity in ethanol-treated embryos. In alcohol-treated embryos, we analyzed RA signaling levels, phenotypes induced and changes in gene expression. Developmental defects that were characteristic of high ethanol concentrations were phenocopied by a low ethanol concentration combined with partial RALDH inhibition, whereas Raldh2 overexpression rescued the developmental malformations induced by high ethanol. RALDH2 knockdown resulted in similar RA signaling levels when carried out alone or in combination with ethanol treatment, suggesting that RALDH2 is the main target of ethanol. The biochemical evidence that we present shows that, at the onset of RA signaling during early gastrulation, the ethanol effect centers on the competition for the available retinaldehyde dehydrogenase activity. In light of the multiple regulatory roles of RA, continued embryogenesis in the presence of abnormally low RA levels provides an etiological explanation for the malformations observed in individuals with FASD.
Project description:Cleft palate is a common birth defect, occurring in approximately 1 in 1000 live births worldwide. Known etiological mechanisms of cleft palate include defects within developing palate shelf tissues, defects in mandibular growth and defects in spontaneous fetal mouth movement. Until now, experimental studies directly documenting fetal mouth immobility as an underlying cause of cleft palate have been limited to models lacking neurotransmission. This study extends the range of anomalies directly demonstrated to have fetal mouth movement defects correlated with cleft palate. Here, we show that mouse embryos deficient in retinoic acid (RA) have mispatterned pharyngeal nerves and skeletal elements that block spontaneous fetal mouth movement in utero Using X-ray microtomography, in utero ultrasound video, ex vivo culture and tissue staining, we demonstrate that proper retinoid signaling and pharyngeal patterning are crucial for the fetal mouth movement needed for palate formation. Embryos with deficient retinoid signaling were generated by stage-specific inactivation of retinol dehydrogenase 10 (Rdh10), a gene crucial for the production of RA during embryogenesis. The finding that cleft palate in retinoid deficiency results from a lack of fetal mouth movement might help elucidate cleft palate etiology and improve early diagnosis in human disorders involving defects of pharyngeal development.
Project description:Alcohol consumption during pregnancy induces Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which has been proposed to arise from competitive inhibition of retinoic acid (RA) biosynthesis. We provide biochemical and developmental evidence identifying acetaldehyde as responsible for this inhibition. In the embryo, RA production by RALDH2 (ALDH1A2), the main retinaldehyde dehydrogenase expressed at that stage, is inhibited by ethanol exposure. Pharmacological inhibition of the embryonic alcohol dehydrogenase activity, prevents the oxidation of ethanol to acetaldehyde that in turn functions as a RALDH2 inhibitor. Acetaldehyde-mediated reduction of RA can be rescued by RALDH2 or retinaldehyde supplementation. Enzymatic kinetic analysis of human RALDH2 shows a preference for acetaldehyde as a substrate over retinaldehyde. RA production by hRALDH2 is efficiently inhibited by acetaldehyde but not by ethanol itself. We conclude that acetaldehyde is the teratogenic derivative of ethanol responsible for the reduction in RA signaling and induction of the developmental malformations characteristic of FASD. This competitive mechanism will affect tissues requiring RA signaling when exposed to ethanol throughout life.
Project description:Epicardial signaling and Rxra are required for expansion of the ventricular myocardial compact zone. Here, we examine Raldh2(-/-) and Rxra(-/-) mouse embryos to investigate the role of retinoic acid (RA) signaling in this developmental process. The heart phenotypes of Raldh2 and Rxra mutants are very similar and are characterized by a prominent defect in ventricular compact zone growth. Although RA activity is completely lost in Raldh2(-/-) epicardium and the adjacent myocardium, RA activity is not lost in Rxra(-/-) hearts, suggesting that RA signaling in the epicardium/myocardium is not required for myocardial compact zone formation. We explored the possibility that RA-mediated target gene transcription in non-cardiac tissues is required for this process. We found that hepatic expression of erythropoietin (EPO), a secreted factor implicated in myocardial expansion, is dependent on both Raldh2 and Rxra. Chromatin immunoprecipitation studies support Epo as a direct target of RA signaling in embryonic liver. Treatment of an epicardial cell line with EPO, but not RA, upregulates Igf2. Furthermore, both Raldh2(-/-) and Rxra(-/-) hearts exhibit downregulation of Igf2 mRNA in the epicardium. EPO treatment of cultured Raldh2(-/-) hearts restores epicardial Igf2 expression and rescues ventricular cardiomyocyte proliferation. We propose a new model for the mechanism of RA-mediated myocardial expansion in which RA directly induces hepatic Epo resulting in activation of epicardial Igf2 that stimulates compact zone growth. This RA-EPO-IGF2 signaling axis coordinates liver hematopoiesis with heart development.
Project description:Retinoic acid (RA) is present at sites of neurogenesis in both the embryonic and adult brain. While it is widely accepted that RA signaling is involved in the regulation of neural stem cell differentiation, little is known about vitamin A utilization and biosynthesis of active retinoids in the neurogenic niches, or about the details of retinoid metabolism in neural stem cells and differentiating progenies. Here we provide data on retinoid responsiveness and RA production of distinct neural stem cell/neural progenitor populations. In addition, we demonstrate differentiation-related changes in the expression of genes encoding proteins of the retinoid machinery, including components responsible for uptake (Stra6) and storage (Lrat) of vitamin A, transport of retinoids (Rbp4, CrbpI, CrabpI-II), synthesis (Rdh10, Raldh1-4), degradation of RA (Cyp26a1-c1) and RA signaling (Rar?,?,?, Rxr?,?,?). We show that both early embryonic neuroectodermal (NE-4C) stem cells and late embryonic or adult derived radial glia like progenitors (RGl cells) are capable to produce bioactive retinoids but respond differently to retinoid signals. However, while neuronal differentiation of RGl cells can not be induced by RA, neuron formation by NE-4C cells is initiated by both RA and RA-precursors (retinol or retinyl acetate). The data indicate that endogenous RA production, at least in some neural stem cell populations, may result in autocrine regulation of neuronal differentiation.
Project description:Retinoic acid (RA) generated in the mesoderm of vertebrate embryos controls body axis extension by downregulating Fgf8 expression in cells exiting the caudal progenitor zone. RA activates transcription by binding to nuclear RA receptors (RARs) at RA response elements (RAREs), but it is unknown whether RA can directly repress transcription. Here, we analyzed a conserved RARE upstream of Fgf8 that binds RAR isoforms in mouse embryos. Transgenic embryos carrying Fgf8 fused to lacZ exhibited expression similar to caudal Fgf8, but deletion of the RARE resulted in ectopic trunk expression extending into somites and neuroectoderm. Epigenetic analysis using chromatin immunoprecipitation of trunk tissues from E8.25 wild-type and Raldh2(-/-) embryos lacking RA synthesis revealed RA-dependent recruitment of the repressive histone marker H3K27me3 and polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) near the Fgf8 RARE. The co-regulator RERE, the loss of which results in ectopic Fgf8 expression and somite defects, was recruited near the RARb RARE by RA, but was released from the Fgf8 RARE by RA. Our findings demonstrate that RA directly represses Fgf8 through a RARE-mediated mechanism that promotes repressive chromatin, thus providing valuable insight into the mechanism of RA-FGF antagonism during progenitor cell differentiation.