Highly efficient targeted mutagenesis in axolotl using Cas9 RNA-guided nuclease.
ABSTRACT: Among tetrapods, only urodele salamanders, such as the axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum, can completely regenerate limbs as adults. The mystery of why salamanders, but not other animals, possess this ability has for generations captivated scientists seeking to induce this phenomenon in other vertebrates. Although many recent advances in molecular biology have allowed limb regeneration and tissue repair in the axolotl to be investigated in increasing detail, the molecular toolkit for the study of this process has been limited. Here, we report that the CRISPR-Cas9 RNA-guided nuclease system can efficiently create mutations at targeted sites within the axolotl genome. We identify individual animals treated with RNA-guided nucleases that have mutation frequencies close to 100% at targeted sites. We employ this technique to completely functionally ablate EGFP expression in transgenic animals and recapitulate developmental phenotypes produced by loss of the conserved gene brachyury. Thus, this advance allows a reverse genetic approach in the axolotl and will undoubtedly provide invaluable insight into the mechanisms of salamanders' unique regenerative ability.
Project description:Among vertebrates, salamanders stand out for their remarkable capacity to quickly regrow a myriad of tissues and organs after injury or amputation. The limb regeneration process in axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) has been well studied for decades at the cell-tissue level. While several developmental genes are known to be reactivated during this epimorphic process, less is known about the role of microRNAs in urodele amphibian limb regeneration. Given the compelling evidence that many microRNAs tightly regulate cell fate and morphogenetic processes through development and adulthood by modulating the expression (or re-expression) of developmental genes, we investigated the possibility that microRNA levels change during limb regeneration. Using two different microarray platforms to compare the axolotl microRNA expression between mid-bud limb regenerating blastemas and non-regenerating stump tissues, we found that miR-21 was overexpressed in mid-bud blastemas compared to stump tissue. Mature A. mexicanum ("Amex") miR-21 was detected in axolotl RNA by Northern blot and differential expression of Amex-miR-21 in blastema versus stump was confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR. We identified the Amex Jagged1 as a putative target gene for miR-21 during salamander limb regeneration. We cloned the full length 3'UTR of Amex-Jag1, and our in vitro assays demonstrated that its single miR-21 target recognition site is functional and essential for the response of the Jagged1 gene to miR-21 levels. Our findings pave the road for advanced in vivo functional assays aimed to clarify how microRNAs such as miR-21, often linked to pathogenic cell growth, might be modulating the redeployment of developmental genes such as Jagged1 during regenerative processes.
Project description:The Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is an important model organism in biomedical research. Much current attention is focused on the axolotl's amazing ability to regenerate tissues and whole organs after injury. However, not forgotten is the axolotl's equally amazing ability to thwart aspects of tissue maturation and retain juvenile morphology into the adult phase of life. Unlike close tiger salamander relatives that undergo a thyroid hormone regulated metamorphosis, the axolotl does not typically undergo a metamorphosis. Instead, the axolotl exhibits a paedomorphic mode of development that enables a completely aquatic life cycle. The evolution of paedomorphosis allowed axolotls to exploit relatively permanent habitats in Mexico, and preadapted axolotls for domestication and laboratory study. In this perspective, we first introduce the axolotl and the various meanings of paedomorphosis, and then stress the need to move beyond endocrinology-guided approaches to understand the axolotl's hypothyroid state. With the recent completion of the axolotl genome assembly and established methods to manipulate gene functions, the axolotl is poised to provide new insights about paedomorphosis and the role of thyroid hormone in development and evolution.
Project description:Salamanders exhibit extensive regenerative capacities and serve as a unique model in regeneration research. However, due to the lack of targeted gene knockin approaches, it has been difficult to label and manipulate some of the cell populations that are crucial for understanding the mechanisms underlying regeneration. Here we have established highly efficient gene knockin approaches in the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) based on the CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Using a homology-independent method, we successfully inserted both the Cherry reporter gene and a larger membrane-tagged Cherry-ERT2-Cre-ERT2 (?5-kb) cassette into axolotl Sox2 and Pax7 genomic loci. Depending on the size of the DNA fragments for integration, 5-15% of the F0 transgenic axolotl are positive for the transgene. Using these techniques, we have labeled and traced the PAX7-positive satellite cells as a major source contributing to myogenesis during axolotl limb regeneration. Our work brings a key genetic tool to molecular and cellular studies of axolotl regeneration.
Project description:Pheromones play an important role in modifying vertebrate behavior, especially during courtship and mating. Courtship behavior in urodele amphibians often includes female exposure to secretions from the cloacal gland, as well as other scent glands. The first vertebrate proteinaceous pheromone discovered, the decapeptide sodefrin, is a female attracting pheromone secreted by the cloacal gland of male Cynops pyrrhogaster. Other proteinaceous pheromones in salamanders have been shown to elicit responses from females towards conspecific males. The presence and levels of expression of proteinaceous pheromones have not been identified in the family Ambystomatidae, which includes several important research models. The objective of this research was therefore to identify putative proteinaceous pheromones from male axolotls, Ambystoma mexicanum, as well as their relative expression levels. The results indicate that axolotls possess two different forms of sodefrin precursor-like factor (alpha and beta), as well as a putative ortholog of plethodontid modulating factor. The beta form of sodefrin precursor-like factor was amongst the most highly expressed transcripts within the cloacal gland. The ortholog of plethodontid modulating factor was expressed at a level equivalent to the beta sodefrin precursor-like factor. The results are from a single male axolotl; therefore, we are unable to assess how representative our results may be. Nevertheless, the presence of these highly expressed proteinaceous pheromones suggests that male axolotls use multiple chemical cues to attract female conspecifics. Behavioral assays would indicate whether the putative protein pheromones elicit courtship activity from female axolotls.
Project description:Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a urodele amphibian endowed with remarkable regenerative capacities manifested in scarless wound healing and restoration of amputated limbs, which makes it a powerful experimental model for regenerative biology and medicine. Previous studies have utilized microarrays and RNA-Seq technologies for detecting differentially expressed (DE) genes in different phases of the axolotl limb regeneration. However, sufficient consistency may be lacking due to statistical limitations arising from intra-laboratory analyses. This study aims to bridge such gaps by performing an integrative analysis of publicly available microarray and RNA-Seq data from axolotl limb samples having comparable study designs using the "merging" method. A total of 351 genes were found DE in regenerative samples compared to the control in data of both technologies, showing an adjusted p-value?<?0.01 and log fold change magnitudes >1. Downstream analyses illustrated consistent correlations of the directionality of DE genes within and between data of both technologies, as well as concordance with the literature on regeneration related biological processes. qRT-PCR analysis validated the observed expression level differences of five of the top DE genes. Future studies may benefit from the utilized concept and approach for enhanced statistical power and robust discovery of biomarkers of regeneration.
Project description:Very little is known about genetic factors that regulate life history transitions during ontogeny. Closely related tiger salamanders (Ambystoma species complex) show extreme variation in metamorphic timing, with some species foregoing metamorphosis altogether, an adaptive trait called paedomorphosis. Previous studies identified a major effect quantitative trait locus (met1) for metamorphic timing and expression of paedomorphosis in hybrid crosses between the biphasic Eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum) and the paedomorphic Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum). We used existing hybrid mapping panels and a newly created hybrid cross to map the met1 genomic region and determine the effect of met1 on larval growth, metamorphic timing, and gene expression in the brain. We show that met1 maps to the position of a urodele-specific chromosome rearrangement on linkage group 2 that uniquely brought functionally associated genes into linkage. Furthermore, we found that more than 200 genes were differentially expressed during larval development as a function of met1 genotype. This list of differentially expressed genes is enriched for proteins that function in the mitochondria, providing evidence of a link between met1, thyroid hormone signaling, and mitochondrial energetics associated with metamorphosis. Finally, we found that met1 significantly affected metamorphic timing in hybrids, but not early larval growth rate. Collectively, our results show that met1 regulates species and morph-specific patterns of brain transcription and life history variation.
Project description:Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a critically endangered salamander species and a model organism for regenerative and developmental biology. Despite life-long neoteny in nature and in captive-bred colonies, metamorphosis of these animals can be experimentally induced by administering Thyroid hormones (THs). However, microbiological consequences of this experimental procedure, such as host microbiota response, remain largely unknown. Here, we systematically compared host bacterial microbiota associated with skin, stomach, gut tissues and fecal samples, between neotenic and metamorphic axolotls based on 16S rRNA gene sequences. Our results show that distinct bacterial communities inhabit individual organs of axolotl and undergo substantial restructuring through metamorphosis. Skin microbiota among others, shifted sharply, as highlighted by a major transition from Firmicutes-enriched to Proteobacteria-enriched relative abundance and precipitously decreased diversity. Fecal microbiota of neotenic and metamorphic axolotl shared relatively higher similarity, suggesting that diet continues to shape microbiota despite fundamental transformations in the host digestive organs. We also reproduced the previous finding on reduction in regenerative capacity in limbs of axolotl following metamorphosis, highlighting the need to investigate whether shifts in microbiota is causally linked to regenerative capacity of axolotl. The initial results on axolotl microbiota provide novel insights into microbiological aspects of axolotl metamorphosis and will establish a baseline for future in-depth studies.
Project description:The Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is one member of a select group of vertebrate animals that has retained the amazing ability to regenerate multiple body parts. In addition to being an important model system for regeneration, the axolotl is also a leading model system for developmental biologists. Many genes used in development have been identified to be reused again during regeneration, however how this molecular circuitry is controlled during regeneration is unknown. In recent years microRNAs have been identified as key regulators of gene expression during development, in many diseases and also in regeneration. Here we have used deep sequencing combined with qRT-PCR to identify microRNAs that are involved in regulating regeneration in axolotl. This approach has enabled us to identify well known families of microRNAs and in addition to identify putative novel microRNAs that differentially regulated in the regenerating tissue. These findings suggest that microRNAs may play key roles in managing the spatial and temporal expression of genes important for ensuring that the correct tissues are regenerated. small RNA Sequencing (2 samples) in Ambystoma Mexicanum
Project description:The Mexican axolotl salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum) is one member of a select group of vertebrate animals that have retained the amazing ability to regenerate multiple body parts. In addition to being an important model system for regeneration, the axolotl has also contributed extensively to studies of basic development. While many genes known to play key roles during development have now been implicated in various forms of regeneration, much of the regulatory apparatus controlling the underlying molecular circuitry remains unknown. In recent years, microRNAs have been identified as key regulators of gene expression during development, in many diseases and also, increasingly, in regeneration. Here, we have used deep sequencing combined with qRT-PCR to undertake a comprehensive identification of microRNAs involved in regulating regeneration in the axolotl. Specifically, among the microRNAs that we have found to be expressed in axolotl tissues, we have identified 4564 microRNA families known to be widely conserved among vertebrates, as well as 59,811 reads of putative novel microRNAs. These findings support the hypothesis that microRNAs play key roles in managing the precise spatial and temporal patterns of gene expression that ensures the correct regeneration of missing tissues.
Project description:Sex pheromones have been shown to constitute a crucial aspect of salamander reproduction. Until now, courtship pheromones of Salamandridae and Plethodontidae have been intensively studied, but information on chemical communication in other urodelan families is essentially lacking. The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum, Ambystomatidae) has a courtship display that suggests a key role for chemical communication in the orchestration of its sexual behavior, but no sex pheromones have yet been characterized from this species. Here we combined whole transcriptome analyses of the male cloaca with proteomic analyses of water in which axolotls were allowed to court to show that male axolotls secrete multiple ca. 20 kDa glycosylated sodefrin precursor-like factor (SPF) proteins during courtship. In combination with phylogenetic analyses, our data show that the male cloaca essentially secretes a courtship-specific clade of SPF proteins that is orthologous to salamandrid courtship pheromones. In addition, we identified an SPF protein for which no orthologs have been described from other salamanders so far. Overall, our study advocates a central role for SPF proteins during the courtship display of axolotls and adds knowledge on pheromone use in a previously unexplored deep evolutionary branch of salamander evolution.