Axial Hox9 activity establishes the posterior field in the developing forelimb.
ABSTRACT: Current models hold that the early limb field becomes polarized into anterior and posterior domains by the opposing activities of Hand2 and Gli3. This polarization is essential for the initiation of Shh expression in the posterior margin of the limb bud, but how this polarity is established is not clear. Here we show that initial anteroposterior polarization of the early forelimb field requires the function of all four Hox9 paralogs (Hoxa9, Hoxb9, Hoxc9, and Hoxd9). This is unexpected, given that only HoxA and HoxD AbdB group genes have been shown to play a role in forelimb patterning, regulating the activation and maintenance of Shh expression and subsequent proximal-distal patterning of the forelimb. Our analysis of Hox9 quadruple mutants demonstrates that Hox9 function is required for the expression of Hand2 in the posterior limb field. Subsequently, Gli3 expression is not repressed posteriorly, Shh expression is not initiated, and collinear expression of HoxA/D10-13 is not established, resulting in severely malformed forelimbs lacking all posterior, Shh-regulated elements. This Hox9 mutant phenotype is restricted to the forelimbs; mutant hindlimbs are normal, revealing fundamental differences in the patterning mechanisms governing the establishment of forelimb and hindlimb fields.
Project description:To date, only the five most posterior groups of Hox genes, Hox9-Hox13, have demonstrated loss-of-function roles in limb patterning. Individual paralog groups control proximodistal patterning of the limb skeletal elements. Hox9 genes also initiate the onset of Hand2 expression in the posterior forelimb compartment, and collectively, the posterior HoxA/D genes maintain posterior Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) expression. Here we show that an anterior Hox paralog group, Hox5, is required for forelimb anterior patterning. Deletion of all three Hox5 genes (Hoxa5, Hoxb5, and Hoxc5) leads to anterior forelimb defects resulting from derepression of Shh expression. The phenotype requires the loss of all three Hox5 genes, demonstrating the high level of redundancy in this Hox paralogous group. Further analyses reveal that Hox5 interacts with promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger biochemically and genetically to restrict Shh expression. These findings, along with previous reports showing that point mutations in the Shh limb enhancer lead to similar anterior limb defects, highlight the importance of Shh repression for proper patterning of the vertebrate limb.
Project description:The polarization of nascent embryonic fields and the endowment of cells with organizer properties are key to initiation of vertebrate organogenesis. One such event is antero-posterior (AP) polarization of early limb buds and activation of morphogenetic Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) signaling in the posterior mesenchyme, which in turn promotes outgrowth and specifies the pentadactylous autopod. Inactivation of the Hand2 transcriptional regulator from the onset of mouse forelimb bud development disrupts establishment of posterior identity and Shh expression, which results in a skeletal phenotype identical to Shh deficient limb buds. In wild-type limb buds, Hand2 is part of the protein complexes containing Hoxd13, another essential regulator of Shh activation in limb buds. Chromatin immunoprecipitation shows that Hand2-containing chromatin complexes are bound to the far upstream cis-regulatory region (ZRS), which is specifically required for Shh expression in the limb bud. Cell-biochemical studies indicate that Hand2 and Hoxd13 can efficiently transactivate gene expression via the ZRS, while the Gli3 repressor isoform interferes with this positive transcriptional regulation. Indeed, analysis of mouse forelimb buds lacking both Hand2 and Gli3 reveals the complete absence of antero-posterior (AP) polarity along the entire proximo-distal axis and extreme digit polydactyly without AP identities. Our study uncovers essential components of the transcriptional machinery and key interactions that set-up limb bud asymmetry upstream of establishing the SHH signaling limb bud organizer.
Project description:The anterior-posterior patterning of the vertebrate limb bud requires closely coordinated signaling interactions, including Sonic Hedgehog (Shh)-mediated counteraction of the Gli3 transcription factor in the distal and posterior mesenchyme of the limb bud. Suppressor of Fused (Sufu), an intracellular negative regulator of Shh signaling via Gli2 and Gli3, is implicated in early development of the mouse limb bud. However, how Sufu is involved in the genetic regulation of limb bud patterning still remains elusive. In this study, we show that the conditional deletion of Sufu in the mesenchyme of the early limb bud results in polydactyly with loss of digit identity and supernumerary bones in the wrist and the ankle. These pattern alterations are associated with anterior expansion of HoxD genes located at the 5' end of the cluster. By focusing on gene expression analysis of Shh/Gremlin1/Fgf signaling critical for the establishment and maintenance of anterior-posterior patterning, we show that early response to loss of Sufu involves anterior prolongation of Fgf4 and Fgf8 expression in the apical ectodermal ridge at E10.5. We also reveal the anterior activation of Shh-dependent posterior markers Ptc1, Gli1 and Gremlin in limb buds lacking Sufu. Furthermore, we find that loss of Sufu leads to attenuated levels of repressor Gli2 and repressor Gli3 in the early limb bud. Moreover, expression of Hand2 is activated in the entire limb bud at the early outgrowth stage in the mutant lacking Sufu. Thus, we provide evidence that Sufu is involved in the genetic network that restricts the posterior expression of Gli2/3/Hand2 and Gremlin/Fgf in limb bud patterning.
Project description:Limb skeletal elements originate from the limb progenitor cells, which undergo expansion and patterning to develop each skeletal element. Posterior-distal skeletal elements, such as the ulna/fibula and posterior digits develop in a Sonic hedgehog (Shh)-dependent manner. However, it is poorly understood how anterior-proximal elements, such as the humerus/femur, the radius/tibia and the anterior digits, are developed. Here we show that the zinc finger factors Sall4 and Gli3 cooperate for proper development of the anterior-proximal skeletal elements and also function upstream of Shh-dependent posterior skeletal element development. Conditional inactivation of Sall4 in the mesoderm before limb outgrowth caused severe defects in the anterior-proximal skeletal elements in the hindlimb. We found that Gli3 expression is reduced in Sall4 mutant hindlimbs, but not in forelimbs. This reduction caused posteriorization of nascent hindlimb buds, which is correlated with a loss of anterior digits. In proximal development, Sall4 integrates Gli3 and the Plzf-Hox system, in addition to proliferative expansion of cells in the mesenchymal core of nascent hindlimb buds. Whereas forelimbs developed normally in Sall4 mutants, further genetic analysis identified that the Sall4-Gli3 system is a common regulator of the early limb progenitor cells in both forelimbs and hindlimbs. The Sall4-Gli3 system also functions upstream of the Shh-expressing ZPA and the Fgf8-expressing AER in fore- and hindlimbs. Therefore, our study identified a critical role of the Sall4-Gli3 system at the early steps of limb development for proper development of the appendicular skeletal elements.
Project description:Variation in digit number has occurred multiple times in the history of archosaur evolution. The five digits of dinosaur limbs were reduced to three in bird forelimbs, and were further reduced in the vestigial forelimbs of the emu. Regulation of digit number has been investigated previously by examining genes involved in anterior-posterior patterning in forelimb buds among emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), chicken (Gallus gallus) and zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). It was described that the expression of posterior genes are conserved among these three birds, whereas expression of anterior genes Gli3 and Alx4 varied significantly. Here we re-examined the expression pattern of Gli3 and Alx4 in the forelimb of emu, chicken and zebra finch. We found that Gli3 is expressed in the anterior region, although its range varied among species, and that the expression pattern of Alx4 in forelimb buds is broadly conserved in a stage-specific manner. We also found that the dynamic expression pattern of the BMP antagonist Gremlin1 (Grem1) in limb buds, which is critical for autopodial expansion, was consistent with the digital pattern of emu, chicken and zebra finch. Furthermore, in emu, variation among individuals was observed in the width of Grem1 expression in forelimb buds, as well as in the adult skeletal pattern. Our results support the view that the signalling system that regulates the dynamic expression of Grem1 in the limb bud contributes substantially to variations in avian digital patterns.
Project description:The genetic networks that govern vertebrate development are well studied, but how the interactions of trans-acting factors with cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) are integrated into spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression is not clear. The transcriptional regulator HAND2 is required during limb, heart, and branchial arch development. Here, we identify the genomic regions enriched in HAND2 chromatin complexes from mouse embryos and limb buds. Then we analyze the HAND2 target CRMs in the genomic landscapes encoding transcriptional regulators required in early limb buds. HAND2 controls the expression of genes functioning in the proximal limb bud and orchestrates the establishment of anterior and posterior polarity of the nascent limb bud mesenchyme by impacting Gli3 and Tbx3 expression. TBX3 is required downstream of HAND2 to refine the posterior Gli3 expression boundary. Our analysis uncovers the transcriptional circuits that function in establishing distinct mesenchymal compartments downstream of HAND2 and upstream of SHH signaling.
Project description:Anterior-posterior (AP) limb patterning is directed by sonic hedgehog (SHH) signaling from the posteriorly located zone of polarizing activity (ZPA). GLI3 and GLI2 are the transcriptional mediators generally utilized in SHH signaling, and each can function as an activator (A) and repressor (R). Although GLI3R has been suggested to be the primary effector of SHH signaling during limb AP patterning, a role for GLI3A or GLI2 has not been fully ruled out, nor has it been determined whether Gli3 plays distinct roles in limb development at different stages. By conditionally removing Gli3 in the limb at multiple different time points, we uncovered four Gli3-mediated functions in limb development that occur at distinct but partially over-lapping time windows: AP patterning of the proximal limb, AP patterning of the distal limb, regulation of digit number and bone differentiation. Furthermore, by removing Gli2 in Gli3 temporal conditional knock-outs, we uncovered an essential role for Gli2 in providing the remaining posterior limb patterning seen in Gli3 single mutants. To test whether GLIAs or GLIRs regulate different aspects of AP limb patterning and/or digit number, we utilized a knock-in allele in which GLI1, which functions solely as an activator, is expressed in place of the bifunctional GLI2 protein. Interestingly, we found that GLIAs contribute to AP patterning specifically in the posterior limb, whereas GLIRs predominantly regulate anterior patterning and digit number. Since GLI3 is a more effective repressor, our results explain why GLI3 is required only for anterior limb patterning and why GLI2 can compensate for GLI3A in posterior limb patterning. Taken together, our data suggest that establishment of a complete range of AP positional identities in the limb requires integration of the spatial distribution, timing, and dosage of GLI2 and GLI3 activators and repressors.
Project description:Anterior-posterior (A/P) limb patterning in vertebrates is determined by the counteraction between the Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) and the Gli3 transcription factor. Shh exerts its effect on Gli3 by regulating the full-length Gli3 protein processing to generate a Gli3 repressor gradient along the A/P axis of the limb. However, it is not clear whether the full-length Gli3 is an activator in vivo and plays any role in the limb patterning. Here we show that mouse limbs expressing only a Gli3 repressor form exhibit mild polysyndactyly and a partial loss of digit identity, while limbs expressing only a full-length Gli3 protein display severe polysyndactyly and a complete loss of digit identity. Interestingly, when the full-length Gli3 and the repressor are equally expressed in the limb, the digit patterning is overall normal except for an extra anterior digit. Furthermore, in the presence of one Gli3 wild type allele, a Gli3 mutant allele that expresses only the full-length form can rescue the Shh mutant digit phenotype to a great extent. The full-length Gli3 protein can also activate Shh target gene expression without Shh. Thus, our data indicate that the full-length Gli3 protein is an activator in vivo and that the ratio of the Gli3 activator to repressor, but neither the Gli3 repressor gradient nor the Gli3 activator/repressor ratio gradient, determines limb digit patterning.
Project description:Preaxial polydactyly (PPD) is a common limb-associated birth defect characterized by extra digit(s) in the anterior autopod. It often results from ectopic sonic hedgehog (Shh) expression in the anterior limb bud. Although several transcription factors are known to restrict Shh expression to the posterior limb bud, how they function together remains unclear. Here we provide evidence from mouse conditional knockout limb buds that the bHLH family transcription factor gene Twist1 is required to inhibit Shh expression in the anterior limb bud mesenchyme. More importantly, we uncovered genetic synergism between Twist1 and the ETS family transcription factor genes Etv4 and Etv5 (collectively Etv), which also inhibit Shh expression. Biochemical data suggest that this genetic interaction is a result of direct association between TWIST1 and ETV proteins. Previous studies have shown that TWIST1 functions by forming homodimers or heterodimers with other bHLH factors including HAND2, a key positive regulator of Shh expression. We found that the PPD phenotype observed in Etv mutants is suppressed by a mutation in Hand2, indicative of genetic antagonism. Furthermore, overexpression of ETV proteins influences the dimerization of these bHLH factors. Together, our data suggest that through biochemical interactions, the Shh expression regulators ETV, TWIST1 and HAND2 attain a precise balance to establish anterior-posterior patterning of the limb.
Project description:Sonic hedgehog (Shh) plays an integral role in both the anterior-posterior (A-P) patterning and expansion of developing vertebrate limbs through a feedback loop involving Fgfs, Bmps, and Gremlin. In bat limbs A-P patterning and the size of the digital field are unique. The posterior digits of the forelimb are elongated and joined by tissue, whereas the thumb is short. The hindlimb digits often are uniform in length. Here, we reveal novel expression patterns for Shh and its target, Patched 1 (Ptc1), during limb development in two bat species. Early Shh expression in the zone of polarizing activity is wider in the bat forelimb than in the mouse forelimb, correlating with the reported expansion of Fgf8 expression in the apical ectodermal ridge and the early loss of symmetry in the bat forelimb. Later in limb development, Shh and Ptc1 expression is reinitiated in the interdigital tissue. Shh is graded along the A-P axis in forelimb and is expressed uniformly at a lower level across the hindlimb interdigital tissue. We also show that the reported Fgf8 expression in the interdigital tissue precedes the expression of Shh. We propose that the reinitiation of Shh and Fgf8 expression in bat limbs reactivates the Shh-Fgf feedback loop in the interdigital tissue of stage 16 bat embryos. The cell survival and proliferation signals provided by the Shh-Fgf signaling loop probably contribute to the lengthening of the posterior forelimb digits, the survival of the forelimb interdigital webbing, and the extension of the hindlimb digits to a uniform length.