Temporal and spatial patterning of axial myotome fibers in Xenopus laevis.
ABSTRACT: Somites give rise to the vertebral column and segmented musculature of adult vertebrates. The cell movements that position cells within somites along the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes are not well understood. Using a fate mapping approach, we show that at the onset of Xenopus laevis gastrulation, mesoderm cells undergo distinct cell movements to form myotome fibers positioned in discrete locations within somites and along the anteroposterior axis. We show that the distribution of presomitic cells along the anteroposterior axis is influenced by convergent and extension movements of the notochord. Heterochronic and heterotopic transplantations between presomitic gastrula and early tail bud stages show that these cells are interchangeable and can form myotome fibers in locations determined by the host embryo. However, additional transplantation experiments revealed differences in the competency of presomitic cells to form myotome fibers, suggesting that maturation within the tail bud presomitic mesoderm is required for myotome fiber differentiation.
Project description:Somitogenesis involves the segmentation of the paraxial mesoderm into units along the anteroposterior axis. Here we show a role for Eph and ephrin signaling in the patterning of presomitic mesoderm and formation of the somites. Ephrin-A-L1 and ephrin-B2 are expressed in an iterative manner in the developing somites and presomitic mesoderm, as is the Eph receptor EphA4. We have examined the role of these proteins by injection of RNA, encoding dominant negative forms of Eph receptors and ephrins. Interruption of Eph signaling leads to abnormal somite boundary formation and reduced or disturbed myoD expression in the myotome. Disruption of Eph family signaling delays the normal down-regulation of her1 and Delta D expression in the anterior presomitic mesoderm and disrupts myogenic differentiation. We suggest that Eph signaling has a key role in the translation of the patterning of presomitic mesoderm into somites.
Project description:Organ formation is an inherently biophysical process, requiring large-scale tissue deformations. Yet, understanding how complex organ shape emerges during development remains a major challenge. During zebrafish embryogenesis, large muscle segments, called myotomes, acquire a characteristic chevron morphology, which is believed to aid swimming. Myotome shape can be altered by perturbing muscle cell differentiation or the interaction between myotomes and surrounding tissues during morphogenesis. To disentangle the mechanisms contributing to shape formation of the myotome, we combine single-cell resolution live imaging with quantitative image analysis and theoretical modeling. We find that, soon after segmentation from the presomitic mesoderm, the future myotome spreads across the underlying tissues. The mechanical coupling between the future myotome and the surrounding tissues appears to spatially vary, effectively resulting in spatially heterogeneous friction. Using a vertex model combined with experimental validation, we show that the interplay of tissue spreading and friction is sufficient to drive the initial phase of chevron shape formation. However, local anisotropic stresses, generated during muscle cell differentiation, are necessary to reach the acute angle of the chevron in wild-type embryos. Finally, tissue plasticity is required for formation and maintenance of the chevron shape, which is mediated by orientated cellular rearrangements. Our work sheds light on how a spatiotemporal sequence of local cellular events can have a nonlocal and irreversible mechanical impact at the tissue scale, leading to robust organ shaping.
Project description:One of the most striking features of the human vertebral column is its periodic organization along the anterior-posterior axis. This pattern is established when segments of vertebrates, called somites, bud off at a defined pace from the anterior tip of the embryo's presomitic mesoderm (PSM). To trigger this rhythmic production of somites, three major signaling pathways--Notch, Wnt/?-catenin, and fibroblast growth factor (FGF)--integrate into a molecular network that generates a traveling wave of gene expression along the embryonic axis, called the "segmentation clock." Recent systems approaches have begun identifying specific signaling circuits within the network that set the pace of the oscillations, synchronize gene expression cycles in neighboring cells, and contribute to the robustness and bilateral symmetry of somite formation. These findings establish a new model for vertebrate segmentation and provide a conceptual framework to explain human diseases of the spine, such as congenital scoliosis.
Project description:The embryonic muscles of the axial skeleton and limbs take their origin from the dermomyotomes of the somites. During embryonic myogenesis, muscle precursors delaminate from the dermomyotome giving rise to the hypaxial and epaxial myotome. Mutant studies for myogenic regulatory factors have shown that the development of the hypaxial myotome differs from the formation of the epaxial myotome and that the development of the hypaxial myotome depends on the latter within the trunk region. The transcriptional networks that regulate the transition of proliferative dermomyotomal cells into the predominantly post-mitotic hypaxial myotome, as well as the eventual patterning of the myotome, are not fully understood. Similar transitions occurring during the development of the neural system have been shown to be controlled by the Atonal family of helix-loop-helix transcription factors. Here, we demonstrate that ATOH8, a member of the Atonal family, is expressed in a subset of embryonic muscle cells in the dermomyotome and myotome. Using the RNAi approach, we show that loss of ATOH8 in the lateral somites at the trunk level results in a blockage of differentiation and thus causes cells to be maintained in a predetermined state. Furthermore, we show that ATOH8 is also expressed in cultured C2C12 mouse myoblasts and becomes dramatically downregulated during their differentiation. We propose that ATOH8 plays a role during the transition of myoblasts from the proliferative phase to the differentiation phase and in the regulation of myogenesis in the hypaxial myotome of the trunk.
Project description:As the vertebrate myotome is generated, myogenic precursor cells undergo extensive and coordinated movements as they differentiate into properly positioned embryonic muscle fibers. In the zebrafish, the "adaxial" cells adjacent to the notochord are the first muscle precursors to be specified. After initially differentiating into slow-twitch myosin-expressing muscle fibers, these cells have been shown to undergo a remarkable radial migration through the lateral somite, to populate the superficial layer of slow-twitch muscle of the mature myotome. Here we characterize an earlier set of adaxial cell behaviors; the transition from a roughly 4x5 array of cuboidal cells to a 1x20 stack of elongated cells, prior to the migration event. We find that adaxial cells display a highly stereotypical series of behaviors as they undergo this rearrangement. Furthermore, we show that the actin regulatory molecule, Cap1, is specifically expressed in adaxial cells and is required for the progression of these behaviors. The requirement of Cap1 for a cellular apical constriction step is reminiscent of similar requirements of Cap during apical constriction in Drosophila development, suggesting a conservation of gene function for a cell biological event critical to many developmental processes.
Project description:In vertebrates, the total number of vertebrae is precisely defined. Vertebrae derive from embryonic somites that are continuously produced posteriorly from the presomitic mesoderm (PSM) during body formation. We show that in the chicken embryo, activation of posterior Hox genes (paralogs 9-13) in the tail-bud correlates with the slowing down of axis elongation. Our data indicate that a subset of progressively more posterior Hox genes, which are collinearly activated in vertebral precursors, repress Wnt activity with increasing strength. This leads to a graded repression of the Brachyury/T transcription factor, reducing mesoderm ingression and slowing down the elongation process. Due to the continuation of somite formation, this mechanism leads to the progressive reduction of PSM size. This ultimately brings the retinoic acid (RA)-producing segmented region in close vicinity to the tail bud, potentially accounting for the termination of segmentation and axis elongation.
Project description:Embryos are growing organisms with highly heterogeneous properties in space and time. Understanding the mechanical properties is a crucial prerequisite for the investigation of morphogenesis. During the last 10 years, new techniques have been developed to evaluate the mechanical properties of biological tissues in vivo. To address this need, we employed a new instrument that, via the combination of micro-indentation with Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), allows us to determine both, the spatial distribution of mechanical properties of chick embryos, and the structural changes in real-time. We report here the stiffness measurements on the live chicken embryo, from the mesenchymal tailbud to the epithelialized somites. The storage modulus of the mesoderm increases from (176 ± 18) Pa in the tail to (716 ± 117) Pa in the somitic region (mean ± SEM, n = 12). The midline has a mean storage modulus of (947 ± 111) Pa in the caudal (PSM) presomitic mesoderm (mean ± SEM, n = 12), indicating a stiff rod along the body axis, which thereby mechanically supports the surrounding tissue. The difference in stiffness between midline and presomitic mesoderm decreases as the mesoderm forms somites. This study provides an efficient method for the biomechanical characterization of soft biological tissues in vivo and shows that the mechanical properties strongly relate to different morphological features of the investigated regions.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Recent discoveries in the field of somitogenesis have confirmed, for the most part, the feasibility of the clock and wavefront model. There are good candidates for both the clock (various genes expressed cyclically in the tail bud of vertebrate embryos have been discovered) and the wavefront (there are at least three different substances, whose expression levels vary along the presomitic mesoderm [PSM], that have important effects on the formation of somites). Nevertheless, the mechanisms through which the wavefront interacts with the clock to arrest the oscillations and induce somite formation have not yet been fully elucidated. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this work, we propose a gene regulatory network which is consistent with all known experimental facts in embryonic mice, and whose dynamic behaviour provides a potential explanation for the periodic aggregation of PSM cells into blocks: the first step leading to the formation of somites. SIGNIFICANCE: To our knowledge, this is the first proposed mechanism that fully explains how a block of PSM cells can stop oscillating simultaneously, and how this process is repeated periodically, via the interaction of the segmentation clock and the determination front.
Project description:The regular spacing of somites during vertebrate embryogenesis involves a dynamic gradient of FGF signaling that controls the timing of maturation of cells in the presomitic mesoderm (PSM). How the FGF signal is transduced by PSM cells is unclear. Here, we first show that the FGF gradient is translated into graded activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway along the PSM in the chicken embryo. Using in ovo electroporation of PSM cells, we demonstrate that constitutive activation of ERK signaling in the PSM blocks segmentation by preventing maturation of PSM cells, thus phenocopying the overexpression of FGF8. Conversely, inhibition of ERK phosphorylation mimics a loss of function of FGF signaling in the PSM. Interestingly, video microscopy analysis of cell movements shows that ERK regulates the motility of PSM cells, suggesting that the decrease of cell movements along the PSM enables mesenchymal PSM cells to undergo proper segmentation. Together, our data demonstrate that ERK is the effector of the gradient of FGF in the PSM that controls the segmentation process.
Project description:During somitogenesis, Fgf8 maintains the predifferentiation stage of presomitic mesoderm (PSM) cells and its retraction gives a cue for somite formation. Delta/Notch initiates the expression of oscillation genes in the tail bud and subsequently contributes to somite formation in a periodic way. Whether there exists a critical factor coordinating Fgf8 and Notch signaling pathways is largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the loss of function of geminin gave rise to narrower somites as a result of derepressed Fgf8 gradient in the PSM and tail bud. Furthermore, in geminin morphants, the somite boundary could not form properly but the oscillation of cyclic genes was normal, displaying the blurry somitic boundary and disturbed somite polarity along the AP axis. In mechanism, these manifestations were mediated by the disrupted association of the geminin/Brg1 complex with intron 3 of mib1. The latter interaction was found to positively regulate mib1 transcription, Notch activity, and sequential somite segmentation during somitogenesis. In addition, geminin was also shown to regulate the expression of deltaD in mib1-independent way. Collectively, our data for the first time demonstrate that geminin regulates Fgf8 and Notch signaling to regulate somite segmentation during somitogenesis.