Lipocalin signaling controls unicellular tube development in the Caenorhabditis elegans excretory system.
ABSTRACT: Unicellular tubes or capillaries composed of individual cells with a hollow lumen perform important physiological functions including fluid or gas transport and exchange. These tubes are thought to build intracellular lumina by polarized trafficking of apical membrane components, but the molecular signals that promote luminal growth and luminal connectivity between cells are poorly understood. Here we show that the lipocalin LPR-1 is required for luminal connectivity between two unicellular tubes in the Caenorhabditis elegans excretory (renal) system, the excretory duct cell and pore cell. Lipocalins are a large family of secreted proteins that transport lipophilic cargos and participate in intercellular signaling. lpr-1 is required at a time of rapid luminal growth, it is expressed by the duct, pore and surrounding cells, and it can function cell non-autonomously. These results reveal a novel signaling mechanism that controls unicellular tube formation, and provide a genetic model system for dissecting lipocalin signaling pathways.
Project description:Lipocalins are secreted cup-shaped glycoproteins that bind sterols, fatty acids, and other lipophilic molecules. Lipocalins have been implicated in a wide array of processes related to lipophilic cargo transport, sequestration, and signaling, and several are used as biomarkers for human disease, but the functions of most lipocalins remain poorly understood. Here we show that the Caenorhabditis elegans lipocalin LPR-1 is required to maintain apical membrane integrity and a continuous lumen in two narrow unicellular tubes, the excretory duct and pore, during a period of rapid lumen elongation. LPR-1 fusion protein is expressed by the duct and pore and accumulates both intracellularly and in apical extracellular compartments, but it can also function cell nonautonomously when provided from outside of the excretory system. lpr-1 mutant defects can be rescued by increased signaling through the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-Ras-extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) pathway, which promotes the more elongated duct vs. less elongated pore tube fate. Spatial and temporal rescue experiments indicate that Ras signaling acts within the duct and pore tubes during or prior to cell fate determination to bypass the requirement for LPR-1 lpr-1 mutations did not disrupt LIN-3/EGF-dependent duct-fate specification, prevent functioning of any specific LIN-3/EGF isoform, or alter LET-23/EGFR localization, and reduced signaling did not phenocopy or enhance lpr-1 mutant defects. These data suggest that LPR-1 protects lumen integrity through a LIN-3/EGF-independent mechanism, but that increased signaling upregulates some target(s) that can compensate for lpr-1 absence.
Project description:A lipid and glycoprotein-rich apical extracellular matrix (aECM) or glycocalyx lines exposed membranes in the body, and is particularly important to protect narrow tube integrity. Lipocalins ("fat cups") are small, secreted, cup-shaped proteins that bind and transport lipophilic cargo and are often found in luminal or aECM compartments such as mammalian plasma, urine, or tear film. Although some lipocalins can bind known aECM lipids and/or matrix metalloproteinases, it is not known if and how lipocalins affect aECM structure due to challenges in visualizing the aECM in most systems. Here we show that two Caenorhabditiselegans lipocalins, LPR-1 and LPR-3, have distinct functions in the precuticular glycocalyx of developing external epithelia. LPR-1 moves freely through luminal compartments, while LPR-3 stably localizes to a central layer of the membrane-anchored glycocalyx, adjacent to the transient zona pellucida domain protein LET-653 Like LET-653 and other C. elegans glycocalyx components, these lipocalins are required to maintain the patency of the narrow excretory duct tube, and also affect multiple aspects of later cuticle organization. lpr-1 mutants cannot maintain a continuous excretory duct apical domain and have misshapen cuticle ridges (alae) and abnormal patterns of cuticular surface lipid staining. lpr-3 mutants cannot maintain a passable excretory duct lumen, properly degrade the eggshell, or shed old cuticle during molting, and they lack cuticle barrier function. Based on these phenotypes, we infer that both LPR-1 and LPR-3 are required to build a properly organized aECM, while LPR-3 additionally is needed for aECM clearance and remodeling. The C. elegans glycocalyx provides a powerful system, amenable to both genetic analysis and live imaging, for investigating how lipocalins and lipids affect aECM structure.
Project description:Receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling through Ras influences many aspects of normal cell behavior, including epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and aberrant signaling promotes both tumorigenesis and metastasis. Although many such effects are cell-autonomous, here we show a non-cell-autonomous role for RTK-Ras signaling in the delamination of a neuroblast from an epithelial organ. The C. elegans renal-like excretory organ is initially composed of three unicellular epithelial tubes, namely the canal, duct and G1 pore cells; however, the G1 cell later delaminates from the excretory system to become a neuroblast and is replaced by the G2 cell. G1 delamination and G2 intercalation involve cytoskeletal remodeling, interconversion of autocellular and intercellular junctions and migration over a luminal extracellular matrix, followed by G1 junction loss. LET-23/EGFR and SOS-1, an exchange factor for Ras, are required for G1 junction loss but not for initial cytoskeletal or junction remodeling. Surprisingly, expression of activated LET-60/Ras in the neighboring duct cell, but not in the G1 or G2 cells, is sufficient to rescue sos-1 delamination defects, revealing that Ras acts non-cell-autonomously to permit G1 delamination. We suggest that, similarly, oncogenic mutations in cells within a tumor might help create a microenvironment that is permissive for other cells to detach and ultimately metastasize.
Project description:Receptor tyrosine kinases and Notch are crucial for tube formation and branching morphogenesis in many systems, but the specific cellular processes that require signaling are poorly understood. Here we describe sequential roles for Notch and Epidermal growth factor (EGF)-Ras-ERK signaling in the development of epithelial tube cells in the C. elegans excretory (renal-like) organ. This simple organ consists of three tandemly connected unicellular tubes: the excretory canal cell, duct and G1 pore. lin-12 and glp-1/Notch are required to generate the canal cell, which is a source of LIN-3/EGF ligand and physically attaches to the duct during de novo epithelialization and tubulogenesis. Canal cell asymmetry and let-60/Ras signaling influence which of two equivalent precursors will attach to the canal cell. Ras then specifies duct identity, inducing auto-fusion and a permanent epithelial character; the remaining precursor becomes the G1 pore, which eventually loses epithelial character and withdraws from the organ to become a neuroblast. Ras continues to promote subsequent aspects of duct morphogenesis and differentiation, and acts primarily through Raf-ERK and the transcriptional effectors LIN-1/Ets and EOR-1. These results reveal multiple genetically separable roles for Ras signaling in tube development, as well as similarities to Ras-mediated control of branching morphogenesis in more complex organs, including the mammalian kidney. The relative simplicity of the excretory system makes it an attractive model for addressing basic questions about how cells gain or lose epithelial character and organize into tubular networks.
Project description:Most epithelial cells secrete a glycoprotein-rich apical extracellular matrix that can have diverse but still poorly understood roles in development and physiology. Zona Pellucida (ZP) domain glycoproteins are common constituents of these matrices, and their loss in humans is associated with a number of diseases. Understanding of the functions, organization and regulation of apical matrices has been hampered by difficulties in imaging them both in vivo and ex vivo. We identified the PAN-Apple, mucin and ZP domain glycoprotein LET-653 as an early and transient apical matrix component that shapes developing epithelia in C. elegans. LET-653 has modest effects on shaping of the vulva and epidermis, but is essential to prevent lumen fragmentation in the very narrow, unicellular excretory duct tube. We were able to image the transient LET-653 matrix by both live confocal imaging and transmission electron microscopy. Structure/function and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching studies revealed that LET-653 exists in two separate luminal matrix pools, a loose fibrillar matrix in the central core of the lumen, to which it binds dynamically via its PAN domains, and an apical-membrane-associated matrix, to which it binds stably via its ZP domain. The PAN domains are both necessary and sufficient to confer a cyclic pattern of duct lumen localization that precedes each molt, while the ZP domain is required for lumen integrity. Ectopic expression of full-length LET-653, but not the PAN domains alone, could expand lumen diameter in the developing gut tube, where LET-653 is not normally expressed. Together, these data support a model in which the PAN domains regulate the ability of the LET-653 ZP domain to interact with other factors at the apical membrane, and this ZP domain interaction promotes expansion and maintenance of lumen diameter. These data identify a transient apical matrix component present prior to cuticle secretion in C. elegans, demonstrate critical roles for this matrix component in supporting lumen integrity within narrow bore tubes such as those found in the mammalian microvasculature, and reveal functional importance of the evolutionarily conserved ZP domain in this tube protecting activity.
Project description:Epithelial, stem-cell derived organoids are ideal building blocks for tissue engineering, however, scalable and shape-controlled bio-assembly of epithelial organoids into larger and anatomical structures is yet to be achieved. Here, a robust organoid engineering approach, Multi-Organoid Patterning and Fusion (MOrPF), is presented to assemble individual airway organoids of different sizes into upscaled, scaffold-free airway tubes with predefined shapes. Multi-Organoid Aggregates (MOAs) undergo accelerated fusion in a matrix-depleted, free-floating environment, possess a continuous lumen, and maintain prescribed shapes without an exogenous scaffold interface. MOAs in the floating culture exhibit a well-defined three-stage process of inter-organoid surface integration, luminal material clearance, and lumina connection. The observed shape stability of patterned MOAs is confirmed by theoretical modelling based on organoid morphology and the physical forces involved in organoid fusion. Immunofluorescent characterization shows that fused MOA tubes possess an unstratified epithelium consisting mainly of tracheal basal stem cells. By generating large, shape-controllable organ tubes, MOrPF enables upscaled organoid engineering towards integrated organoid devices and structurally complex organ tubes.
Project description:Cells perform wide varieties of functions that are facilitated, in part, by adopting unique shapes. Many of the genes and pathways that promote cell fate specification have been elucidated. However, relatively few transcription factors have been identified that promote shape acquisition after fate specification. Here we show that the Nkx5/HMX homeodomain protein MLS-2 is required for cellular elongation and shape maintenance of two tubular epithelial cells in the C. elegans excretory system, the duct and pore cells. The Nkx5/HMX family is highly conserved from sea urchins to humans, with known roles in neuronal and glial development. MLS-2 is expressed in the duct and pore, and defects in mls-2 mutants first arise when the duct and pore normally adopt unique shapes. MLS-2 cooperates with the EGF-Ras-ERK pathway to turn on the LIN-48/Ovo transcription factor in the duct cell during morphogenesis. These results reveal a novel interaction between the Nkx5/HMX family and the EGF-Ras pathway and implicate a transcription factor, MLS-2, as a regulator of cell shape.
Project description:Regulation of luminal diameter is critical to the function of small single-celled tubes, of which the seamless tubular excretory canals of Caenorhabditis elegans provide a tractable genetic model. Mutations in several sets of genes exhibit the Exc phenotype, in which canal luminal growth is visibly altered. Here, a focused reverse genomic screen of genes highly expressed in the canals found 18 genes that significantly affect luminal outgrowth or diameter. These genes encode novel proteins as well as highly conserved proteins involved in processes including gene expression, cytoskeletal regulation, and vesicular and transmembrane transport. In addition, two genes act as suppressors on a pathway of conserved genes whose products mediate vesicle movement from early to recycling endosomes. The results provide new tools for understanding the integration of cytoplasmic structure and physiology in forming and maintaining the narrow diameter of single-cell tubules.
Project description:The bending of epithelial tubes is a fundamental process in organ morphogenesis, driven by various multicellular behaviours. The cochlea in the mammalian inner ear is a representative example of spiral tissue architecture where the continuous bending of the duct is a fundamental component of its morphogenetic process. Although the cochlear duct morphogenesis has been studied by genetic approaches extensively, it is still unclear how the cochlear duct morphology is physically formed. Here, we report that nuclear behaviour changes are associated with the curvature of the pseudostratified epithelium during murine cochlear development. Two-photon live-cell imaging reveals that the nuclei shuttle between the luminal and basal edges of the cell is in phase with cell-cycle progression, known as interkinetic nuclear migration, in the flat region of the pseudostratified epithelium. However, the nuclei become stationary on the luminal side following mitosis in the curved region. Mathematical modelling together with perturbation experiments shows that this nuclear stalling facilitates luminal-basal differential growth within the epithelium, suggesting that the nuclear stalling would contribute to the bending of the pseudostratified epithelium during the cochlear duct development. The findings suggest a possible scenario of differential growth which sculpts the tissue shape, driven by collective nuclear dynamics.
Project description:Formation of a functional renal network requires the interconnection of two epithelial tubes: the nephron, which arises from kidney mesenchyme, and the collecting system, which originates from the branching ureteric epithelium. How this connection occurs, however, is incompletely understood. Here, we used high-resolution image analysis in conjunction with genetic labeling of epithelia to visualize and characterize this process. Although the focal absence of basal lamina from renal vesicle stages ensures that both epithelial networks are closely apposed, we found that a patent luminal interconnection is not established until S-shaped body stages. Precursor cells of the distal nephron in the interconnection zone exhibit a characteristic morphology consisting of ill-defined epithelial junctional complexes but without expression of mesenchymal markers such as vimentin and Snai2. Live-cell imaging revealed that before luminal interconnection, distal cells break into the lumen of the collecting duct epithelium, suggesting that an invasive behavior is a key step in the interconnection process. Furthermore, loss of distal cell identity, which we induced by activating the Notch pathway, prevented luminal interconnection. Taken together, these data support a model in which establishing the distal identity of nephron precursor cells closest to the nascent collecting duct epithelium leads to an active cell invasion, which in turn contributes to a patent tubular interconnection between the nephron and collecting duct epithelia.