The Wnt3a/?-catenin target gene Mesogenin1 controls the segmentation clock by activating a Notch signalling program.
ABSTRACT: Segmentation is an organizing principle of body plans. The segmentation clock, a molecular oscillator best illustrated by the cyclic expression of Notch signalling genes, controls the periodic cleavage of somites from unsegmented presomitic mesoderm during vertebrate segmentation. Wnt3a controls the spatiotemporal expression of cyclic Notch genes; however, the underlying mechanisms remain obscure. Here we show by transcriptional profiling of Wnt3a (-/-) embryos that the bHLH transcription factor, Mesogenin1 (Msgn1), is a direct target gene of Wnt3a. To identify Msgn1 targets, we conducted genome-wide studies of Msgn1 activity in embryonic stem cells. We show that Msgn1 is a major transcriptional activator of a Notch signalling program and synergizes with Notch to trigger clock gene expression. Msgn1 also indirectly regulates cyclic genes in the Fgf and Wnt pathways. Thus, Msgn1 is a central component of a transcriptional cascade that translates a spatial Wnt3a gradient into a temporal pattern of clock gene expression.
Project description:Neuromesodermal (NM) stem cells generate neural and paraxial presomitic mesoderm (PSM) cells, which are the respective progenitors of the spinal cord and musculoskeleton of the trunk and tail. The Wnt-regulated basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor mesogenin 1 (Msgn1) has been implicated as a cooperative regulator working in concert with T-box genes to control PSM formation in zebrafish, although the mechanism is unknown. We show here that, in mice, Msgn1 alone controls PSM differentiation by directly activating the transcriptional programs that define PSM identity, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, motility and segmentation. Forced expression of Msgn1 in NM stem cells in vivo reduced the contribution of their progeny to the neural tube, and dramatically expanded the unsegmented mesenchymal PSM while blocking somitogenesis and notochord differentiation. Expression of Msgn1 was sufficient to partially rescue PSM differentiation in Wnt3a(-/-) embryos, demonstrating that Msgn1 functions downstream of Wnt3a as the master regulator of PSM differentiation. Our data provide new insights into how cell fate decisions are imposed by the expression of a single transcriptional regulator.
Project description:Paraxial mesoderm is the tissue which gives rise to the skeletal muscles and vertebral column of the body. A gene regulatory network operating in the formation of paraxial mesoderm has been described. This network hinges on three key factors, Wnt3a, Msgn1 and Tbx6, each of which is critical for paraxial mesoderm formation, since absence of any one of these factors results in complete absence of posterior somites. In this study we determined and compared the spatial and temporal patterns of expression of Wnt3a, Msgn1 and Tbx6 at a time when paraxial mesoderm is being formed. Then, we performed a comparative characterization of mutants in Wnt3a, Msgn1 and Tbx6. To determine the epistatic relationship between these three genes, and begin to decipher the complex interplay between them, we analyzed double mutant embryos and compared their phenotypes to the single mutants. Through the analysis of molecular markers in mutants, our data support the bipotential nature of the progenitor cells for paraxial mesoderm and establish regulatory relationships between genes involved in the choice between neural and mesoderm fates.
Project description:The segmentation of the vertebrate body is laid down during early embryogenesis. The formation of signaling gradients, the periodic expression of genes of the Notch-, Fgf- and Wnt-pathways and their interplay in the unsegmented presomitic mesoderm (PSM) precedes the rhythmic budding of nascent somites at its anterior end, which later develops into epithelialized structures, the somites. Although many in silico models describing partial aspects of somitogenesis already exist, simulations of a complete causal chain from gene expression in the growth zone via the interaction of multiple cells to segmentation are rare. Here, we present an enhanced gene regulatory network (GRN) for mice in a simulation program that models the growing PSM by many virtual cells and integrates WNT3A and FGF8 gradient formation, periodic gene expression and Delta/Notch signaling. Assuming Hes7 as core of the somitogenesis clock and LFNG as modulator, we postulate a negative feedback of HES7 on Dll1 leading to an oscillating Dll1 expression as seen in vivo. Furthermore, we are able to simulate the experimentally observed wave of activated NOTCH (NICD) as a result of the interactions in the GRN. We esteem our model as robust for a wide range of parameter values with the Hes7 mRNA and protein decays exerting a strong influence on the core oscillator. Moreover, our model predicts interference between Hes1 and HES7 oscillators when their intrinsic frequencies differ. In conclusion, we have built a comprehensive model of somitogenesis with HES7 as core oscillator that is able to reproduce many experimentally observed data in mice.
Project description:The segmented body plan of vertebrates is prefigured by reiterated embryonic mesodermal structures called somites. In the mouse embryo, timely somite formation from the presomitic mesoderm (PSM) is controlled by the "segmentation clock," a molecular oscillator that triggers progressive waves of Notch activity throughout the PSM. Notch clock activity is suppressed in the posterior PSM by FGF signaling until it crosses a determination front at which its net activity is sufficiently high to effect segmentation. Here, Notch and Wnt signaling directs somite anterior/posterior (A/P) polarity specification and boundary formation via regulation of the segmentation effector gene Mesoderm posterior 2. How Notch and Wnt signaling becomes coordinated at this front is incompletely defined. Here we show that the activity of the cAMP responsive element binding protein (CREB) family of transcription factors exhibits Wnt3a-dependent oscillatory behavior near the determination front and is in unison with Notch activity. Inhibition of CREB family in the mesoderm causes defects in somite segmentation and a loss in somite posterior polarity leading to fusions of vertebrae and ribs. Among the CREB family downstream genes, several are known to be regulated by Wnt3a. Of those, we show that the CREB family occupies a conserved binding site in the promoter region of Delta-like 1, encoding a Notch ligand, in the anterior PSM as a mechanism to specify posterior identity of somites. Together, these data support that the CREB family acts at the determination front to modulate Wnt signaling and strengthen Notch signaling as a means to orchestrate cells for somite segmentation and anterior/posterior patterning.
Project description: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:Vertebrate segmentation is controlled by the segmentation clock, a molecular oscillator that regulates gene expression and cycles rapidly. The expression of many genes oscillates during segmentation, including hairy/Enhancer of split-related (her or Hes) genes, which encode transcriptional repressors that auto-inhibit their own expression, and deltaC (dlc), which encodes a Notch ligand. We previously identified the tortuga (tor) locus in a zebrafish forward genetic screen for genes involved in cyclic transcript regulation and showed that cyclic transcripts accumulate post-splicing in tor mutants. Here we show that cyclic mRNA accumulation in tor mutants is due to loss of pnrc2, which encodes a proline-rich nuclear receptor co-activator implicated in mRNA decay. Using an inducible in vivo reporter system to analyze transcript stability, we find that the her1 3'UTR confers Pnrc2-dependent instability to a heterologous transcript. her1 mRNA decay is Dicer-independent and likely employs a Pnrc2-Upf1-containing mRNA decay complex. Surprisingly, despite accumulation of cyclic transcripts in pnrc2-deficient embryos, we find that cyclic protein is expressed normally. Overall, we show that Pnrc2 promotes 3'UTR-mediated decay of developmentally-regulated segmentation clock transcripts and we uncover an additional post-transcriptional regulatory layer that ensures oscillatory protein expression in the absence of cyclic mRNA decay.
Project description:The somite segmentation clock is a robust oscillator used to generate regularly-sized segments during early vertebrate embryogenesis. It has been proposed that the clocks of neighbouring cells are synchronised via inter-cellular Notch signalling, in order to overcome the effects of noisy gene expression. When Notch-dependent communication between cells fails, the clocks of individual cells operate erratically and lose synchrony over a period of about 5 to 8 segmentation clock cycles (2-3 hours in the zebrafish). Here, we quantitatively investigate the effects of stochasticity on cell synchrony, using mathematical modelling, to investigate the likely source of such noise. We find that variations in the transcription, translation and degradation rate of key Notch signalling regulators do not explain the in vivo kinetics of desynchronisation. Rather, the analysis predicts that clock desynchronisation, in the absence of Notch signalling, is due to the stochastic dissociation of Her1/7 repressor proteins from the oscillating her1/7 autorepressed target genes. Using in situ hybridisation to visualise sites of active her1 transcription, we measure an average delay of approximately three minutes between the times of activation of the two her1 alleles in a cell. Our model shows that such a delay is sufficient to explain the in vivo rate of clock desynchronisation in Notch pathway mutant embryos and also that Notch-mediated synchronisation is sufficient to overcome this stochastic variation. This suggests that the stochastic nature of repressor/DNA dissociation is the major source of noise in the segmentation clock.
Project description:An important step in understanding biological rhythms is the control of period. A multicellular, rhythmic patterning system termed the segmentation clock is thought to govern the sequential production of the vertebrate embryo's body segments, the somites. Several genetic loss-of-function conditions, including the Delta-Notch intercellular signalling mutants, result in slower segmentation. Here, we generate DeltaD transgenic zebrafish lines with a range of copy numbers and correspondingly increased signalling levels, and observe faster segmentation. The highest-expressing line shows an altered oscillating gene expression wave pattern and shortened segmentation period, producing embryos with more, shorter body segments. Our results reveal surprising differences in how Notch signalling strength is quantitatively interpreted in different organ systems, and suggest a role for intercellular communication in regulating the output period of the segmentation clock by altering its spatial pattern.
Project description:Canonical Wnt signalling plays an important role in osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. However, the molecular mechanisms by which canonical Wnt signalling exerts its osteoblastogenic effect remain elusive. Here, we investigated the relationship between lymphoid enhancer-binding factor 1 (LEF1) and transcriptional co-activator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ), both of which are transcriptional regulators that mediate canonical Wnt signalling during osteoblast differentiation. Reporter assay and co-immunoprecipitation experiments revealed functional and physical interaction between LEF1 and TAZ. Overexpression of dominant-negative forms of either LEF1 or TAZ markedly inhibited Wnt3a-dependent osteoblast differentiation. Moreover, we found that LEF1 and TAZ formed a transcriptional complex with runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2) and that inhibition of LEF1 or TAZ by their dominant-negative forms dramatically suppressed the osteoblastogenic activity of Ruxn2. Additionally, Wnt3a enhanced osteoblast differentiation induced by bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2), which stimulates osteoblast differentiation by regulating Runx2. Collectively, these findings suggest that interaction between LEF1 and TAZ is crucial for the osteoblastogenic activity of Wnt3a and that LEF1 and TAZ contribute to the cooperative effect of Wnt3a and BMP2 on osteoblast differentiation through association with Runx2.
Project description:Segmentation is unquestionably a major factor in the evolution of complex body plans, but how this trait itself evolved is unknown. Approaching this problem requires comparing the molecular mechanisms of segmentation in diverse segmented and unsegmented taxa. Notch/Hes signaling is involved in segmentation in sequentially segmenting vertebrates and arthropods, as judged by patterns of expression of one or more genes in this network and by the disruption of segmental patterning when Notch/Hes signaling is disrupted. We have previously shown that Notch and Hes homologs are expressed in the posterior progress zone (PPZ), from which segments arise, in the leech Helobdella robusta, a sequentially segmenting lophotrochozoan (phylum Annelida). Here, we show that disrupting Notch/Hes signaling disrupts segmentation in this species as well. Thus, Notch/Hes functions in either the maintenance of the PPZ and/or the patterning processes of segmentation in representatives of all three superphyla of bilaterally symmetric animals. These results are consistent with two evolutionary scenarios. In one, segmentation was already present in the ancestor of all three superphyla. In the other, Notch/Hes signaling functioned in axial growth by terminal addition in an unsegmented bilaterian ancestor, and was subsequently exapted to function in segmentation as that process evolved independently in two or more taxa.