Single-cell-resolution imaging of the impact of Notch signaling and mitosis on segmentation clock dynamics.
ABSTRACT: Vertebrate body segmentation is controlled by the segmentation clock, a molecular oscillator involving transcriptional oscillations of cyclic genes in presomitic mesoderm cells. The rapid and highly dynamic nature of this oscillating system has proved challenging for study at the single-cell level. We achieved visualization of clock activity with a cellular level of resolution in living embryos, allowing direct comparison of oscillations in neighbor cells. We provide direct evidence that presomitic mesoderm cells oscillate asynchronously in zebrafish Notch pathway mutants. By tracking oscillations in mitotic cells, we reveal that a robust cell-autonomous, Notch-independent mechanism resumes oscillations after mitosis. Finally, we find that cells preferentially divide at a certain oscillation phase, likely reducing the noise generated by cell division in cell synchrony and suggesting an intriguing relationship between the mitotic cycle and clock oscillation.
Project description:How signaling dynamics encode information is a central question in biology. During vertebrate development, dynamic Notch signaling oscillations control segmentation of the presomitic mesoderm (PSM). In mouse embryos, this molecular clock comprises signaling oscillations of several pathways, i.e., Notch, Wnt, and FGF signaling. Here, we directly address the role of the relative timing between Wnt and Notch signaling oscillations during PSM patterning. To this end, we developed a new experimental strategy using microfluidics-based entrainment that enables specific control of the rhythm of segmentation clock oscillations. Using this approach, we find that Wnt and Notch signaling are coupled at the level of their oscillation dynamics. Furthermore, we provide functional evidence that the oscillation phase shift between Wnt and Notch signaling is critical for PSM segmentation. Our work hence reveals that dynamic signaling, i.e., the relative timing between oscillatory signals, encodes essential information during multicellular development.
Project description:Defects in somitogenesis result in vertebral malformations at birth known as spondylocostal dysostosis (SCDO). Somites are formed with a species-specific periodicity controlled by the "segmentation clock," which comprises a group of oscillatory genes in the presomitic mesoderm. Here, we report that a segmentation clock model derived from human embryonic stem cells shows many hallmarks of the mammalian segmentation clock in vivo, including a dependence on the NOTCH and WNT signaling pathways. The gene expression oscillations are highly synchronized, displaying a periodicity specific to the human clock. Introduction of a point of mutation into HES7, a specific mutation previously associated with clinical SCDO, eliminated clock gene oscillations, successfully reproducing the defects in the segmentation clock. Thus, we provide a model for studying the previously inaccessible human segmentation clock to better understand the mechanisms contributing to congenital skeletal defects.
Project description:In vertebrate somitogenesis, the expression of segmentation clock genes oscillates and the oscillation is synchronized over nearby cells. Both experimental and theoretical studies have shown that the synchronization among cells is realized by intercellular interaction via Delta-Notch signaling. However, the following questions emerge: (i) During somitogenesis, dynamic rearrangement of relative cell positions is observed in the posterior presomitic mesoderm. Can a synchronized state be stably sustained under random cell movement? (ii) Experimental studies have reported that the synchronization of cells can be recovered in about 10 or fewer oscillation cycles after the complete loss of synchrony. However, such a quick recovery of synchronization is not possible according to previous theoretical models. In this paper, we first show by numerical modeling that synchronized oscillation can be sustained under random cell movement. We also find that for initial perturbation, the synchronization of cells is recovered much faster and it is for a wider range of reaction parameters than the case without cell movement. When the posterior presomitic mesoderm is rectangular, faster synchronization is achieved if cells exchange their locations more with neighbors located along the longer side of the domain. Finally, we discuss that the enhancement of synchronization by random cell movement occurs in several different models for the oscillation of segmentation clock genes.
Project description:The periodic segmentation of the vertebrate body axis into somites, and later vertebrae, relies on a genetic oscillator (the segmentation clock) driving the rhythmic activity of signaling pathways in the presomitic mesoderm (PSM). To understand whether oscillations are an intrinsic property of individual cells or represent a population-level phenomenon, we established culture conditions for stable oscillations at the cellular level. This system was used to demonstrate that oscillations are a collective property of PSM cells that can be actively triggered in vitro by a dynamical quorum sensing signal involving Yap and Notch signaling. Manipulation of Yap-dependent mechanical cues is sufficient to predictably switch isolated PSM cells from a quiescent to an oscillatory state in vitro, a behavior reminiscent of excitability in other systems. Together, our work argues that the segmentation clock behaves as an excitable system, introducing a broader paradigm to study such dynamics in vertebrate morphogenesis.
Project description:Somite formation in the early stage of vertebrate embryonic development is controlled by a complicated gene network named segmentation clock, which is defined by the periodic expression of genes related to the Notch, Wnt, and the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) pathways. Although in recent years some findings about crosstalk among the Notch, Wnt, and FGF pathways in somitogenesis have been reported, the investigation of their crosstalk mechanisms from a systematic point of view is still lacking. In this study, a more comprehensive mathematical model was proposed to simulate the dynamics of the Notch, Wnt, and FGF pathways in the segmentation clock. Simulations and bifurcation analyses of this model suggested that the concentration gradients of both Wnt, and FGF signals along the presomitic mesoderm (PSM) are corresponding to the whole process from start to stop of the segmentation clock. A number of highly sensitive parameters to the segmentation clock's oscillatory pattern were identified. By further bifurcation analyses for these sensitive parameters, and several complementary mechanisms in respect of the maintenance of the stable oscillation of the segmentation clock were revealed.
Project description:Somites are embryonic precursors of the ribs, vertebrae and certain dermis tissue. Somite formation is a periodic process regulated by a molecular clock which drives cyclic expression of a number of clock genes in the presomitic mesoderm. To date the mechanism regulating the period of clock gene oscillations is unknown. Here we show that chick homologues of the Wnt pathway genes that oscillate in mouse do not cycle across the chick presomitic mesoderm. Strikingly we find that modifying Wnt signalling changes the period of Notch driven oscillations in both mouse and chick but these oscillations continue. We propose that the Wnt pathway is a conserved mechanism that is involved in regulating the period of cyclic gene oscillations in the presomitic mesoderm.
Project description:The number of vertebrae is defined strictly for a given species and depends on the number of somites, which are the earliest metameric structures that form in development. Somites are formed by sequential segmentation. The periodicity of somite segmentation is orchestrated by the synchronous oscillation of gene expression in the presomitic mesoderm (PSM), termed the "somite segmentation clock," in which Notch signaling plays a crucial role. Here we show that the clock period is sensitive to Notch activity, which is fine-tuned by its feedback regulator, Notch-regulated ankyrin repeat protein (Nrarp), and that Nrarp is essential for forming the proper number and morphology of axial skeleton components. Null-mutant mice for Nrarp have fewer vertebrae and have defective morphologies. Notch activity is enhanced in the PSM of the Nrarp(-/-) embryo, where the ~2-h segmentation period is extended by 5 min, thereby forming fewer somites and their resultant vertebrae. Reduced Notch activity partially rescues the Nrarp(-/-) phenotype in the number of somites, but not in morphology. Therefore we propose that the period of the somite segmentation clock is sensitive to Notch activity and that Nrarp plays essential roles in the morphology of vertebrae and ribs.
Project description:Somite segmentation depends on a gene expression oscillator or clock in the posterior presomitic mesoderm (PSM) and on read-out machinery in the anterior PSM to convert the pattern of clock phases into a somite pattern. Notch pathway mutations disrupt somitogenesis, and previous studies have suggested that Notch signalling is required both for the oscillations and for the read-out mechanism. By blocking or overactivating the Notch pathway abruptly at different times, we show that Notch signalling has no essential function in the anterior PSM and is required only in the posterior PSM, where it keeps the oscillations of neighbouring cells synchronized. Using a GFP reporter for the oscillator gene her1, we measure the influence of Notch signalling on her1 expression and show by mathematical modelling that this is sufficient for synchronization. Our model, in which intracellular oscillations are generated by delayed autoinhibition of her1 and her7 and synchronized by Notch signalling, explains the observations fully, showing that there are no grounds to invoke any additional role for the Notch pathway in the patterning of somite boundaries in zebrafish.
Project description:All vertebrates share a segmented body axis. Segments form from the rostral end of the presomitic mesoderm (PSM) with a periodicity that is regulated by the segmentation clock. The segmentation clock is a molecular oscillator that exhibits dynamic clock gene expression across the PSM with a periodicity that matches somite formation. Notch signalling is crucial to this process. Altering Notch intracellular domain (NICD) stability affects both the clock period and somite size. However, the mechanism by which NICD stability is regulated in this context is unclear. We identified a highly conserved site crucial for NICD recognition by the SCF E3 ligase, which targets NICD for degradation. We demonstrate both CDK1 and CDK2 can phosphorylate NICD in the domain where this crucial residue lies and that NICD levels vary in a cell cycle-dependent manner. Inhibiting CDK1 or CDK2 activity increases NICD levels both in vitro and in vivo, leading to a delay of clock gene oscillations and an increase in somite size.
Project description:The segmental organization of the vertebral column is established early in embryogenesis, when pairs of somites are rhythmically produced by the presomitic mesoderm (PSM). The tempo of somite formation is controlled by a molecular oscillator known as the segmentation clock1,2. Although this oscillator has been well-characterized in model organisms1,2, whether a similar oscillator exists in humans remains unknown. Genetic analyses of patients with severe spine segmentation defects have implicated several human orthologues of cyclic genes that are associated with the mouse segmentation clock, suggesting that this oscillator might be conserved in humans3. Here we show that human PSM cells derived in vitro-as well as those of the mouse4-recapitulate the oscillations of the segmentation clock. Human PSM cells oscillate with a period two times longer than that of mouse cells (5 h versus 2.5 h), but are similarly regulated by FGF, WNT, Notch and YAP signalling5. Single-cell RNA sequencing reveals that mouse and human PSM cells in vitro follow a developmental trajectory similar to that of mouse PSM in vivo. Furthermore, we demonstrate that FGF signalling controls the phase and period of oscillations, expanding the role of this pathway beyond its classical interpretation in 'clock and wavefront' models1. Our work identifying the human segmentation clock represents an important milestone in understanding human developmental biology.