ABSTRACT: 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 ratites are a distinctive clade of flightless birds, typified by the emu and ostrich that have acquired a range of unique anatomical characteristics since diverging from basal Aves at least 100 million years ago. The emu possesses a vestigial wing with a single digit and greatly reduced forelimb musculature. However, the embryological basis of wing reduction and other anatomical changes associated with loss of flight are unclear. Here we report a previously unknown co-option of the cardiac transcription factor Nkx2.5 to the forelimb in the emu embryo, but not in ostrich, or chicken and zebra finch, which have fully developed wings. Nkx2.5 is expressed in emu limb bud mesenchyme and maturing wing muscle, and mis-expression of Nkx2.5 throughout the limb bud in chick results in wing reductions. We propose that Nkx2.5 functions to inhibit early limb bud expansion and later muscle growth during development of the vestigial emu wing.The transcription factor Nkx2.5 is essential for heart development. Here, the authors identify a previously unknown expression domain for Nkx2.5 in the emu wing and explore its role in diminished wing bud development in the flightless emu, compared with three other birds that have functional wings.
Project description: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: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:The key molecular interactions governing vertebrate limb bud development are a paradigm for studying the mechanisms controlling progenitor cell proliferation and specification during vertebrate organogenesis. However, little is known about the cellular heterogeneity of the mesenchymal progenitors in early limb buds that ultimately contribute to the chondrogenic condensations prefiguring the skeleton. We combined flow cytometric and transcriptome analyses to identify the molecular signatures of several distinct mesenchymal progenitor cell populations present in early mouse forelimb buds. In particular, jagged 1 (JAG1)-positive cells located in the posterior-distal mesenchyme were identified as the most immature limb bud mesenchymal progenitors (LMPs), which crucially depend on SHH and FGF signaling in culture. The analysis of gremlin 1 (Grem1)-deficient forelimb buds showed that JAG1-expressing LMPs are protected from apoptosis by GREM1-mediated BMP antagonism. At the same stage, the osteo-chondrogenic progenitors (OCPs) located in the core mesenchyme are already actively responding to BMP signaling. This analysis sheds light on the cellular heterogeneity of the early mouse limb bud mesenchyme and on the distinct response of LMPs and OCPs to morphogen signaling.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Mouse limb bud is a prime model to study the regulatory interactions that control vertebrate organogenesis. Major aspects of limb bud development are controlled by feedback loops that define a self-regulatory signalling system. The SHH/GREM1/AER-FGF feedback loop forms the core of this signalling system that operates between the posterior mesenchymal organiser and the ectodermal signalling centre. The BMP antagonist Gremlin1 (GREM1) is a critical node in this system, whose dynamic expression is controlled by BMP, SHH, and FGF signalling and key to normal progression of limb bud development. Previous analysis identified a distant cis-regulatory landscape within the neighbouring Formin1 (Fmn1) locus that is required for Grem1 expression, reminiscent of the genomic landscapes controlling HoxD and Shh expression in limb buds. RESULTS: Three highly conserved regions (HMCO1-3) were identified within the previously defined critical genomic region and tested for their ability to regulate Grem1 expression in mouse limb buds. Using a combination of BAC and conventional transgenic approaches, a 9?kb region located ~70?kb downstream of the Grem1 transcription unit was identified. This region, termed Grem1 Regulatory Sequence 1 (GRS1), is able to recapitulate major aspects of Grem1 expression, as it drives expression of a LacZ reporter into the posterior and, to a lesser extent, in the distal-anterior mesenchyme. Crossing the GRS1 transgene into embryos with alterations in the SHH and BMP pathways established that GRS1 depends on SHH and is modulated by BMP signalling, i.e. integrates inputs from these pathways. Chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed interaction of endogenous GLI3 proteins with the core cis-regulatory elements in the GRS1 region. As GLI3 is a mediator of SHH signal transduction, these results indicated that SHH directly controls Grem1 expression through the GRS1 region. Finally, all cis-regulatory regions within the Grem1 genomic landscape locate to the DNAse I hypersensitive sites identified in this genomic region by the ENCODE consortium. CONCLUSIONS: This study establishes that distant cis-regulatory regions scattered through a larger genomic landscape control the highly dynamic expression of Grem1, which is key to normal progression of mouse limb bud development.
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:We used microarray technology to investigate the transcriptional consequences of loss of Gli3 from the anterior mesenchyme of the developing mouse limb bud at both E11.5 and E12.5. Comparisons were made between RNA derived from the anterior margin of Gli3Xt/Xt limb buds and that derived from wild type littermates Keywords: genetic modification Overall design: The experiment contains a series of pairwise comparisons between staged mutant Gli3(Xt/Xt) and WT anterior portions of limb bud at 11.5dpc and 12.5dpc. Forelimbs and hindlimbs were studied independently given the developmental delay between limb buds.
Project description:Previous studies on a limited number of birds suggested that the IgD-encoding gene was absent in birds. However, one of our recent studies showed that the gene was definitely expressed in the ostrich and emu. Interestingly, we also identified subclass diversification of IgM and IgY in these two birds. To better understand immunoglobulin genes in birds, in this study, we analyzed the immunoglobulin heavy chain genes in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua), belonging respectively to the order Passeriformes, the most successful bird order in terms of species diversity and numbers, and Sphenisciformes, a relatively primitive avian order. Similar to the results obtained in chickens and ducks, only three genes encoding immunoglobulin heavy chain isotypes, IgM, IgA and IgY, were identified in both species. Besides, we detected a transcript encoding a short membrane-bound IgA lacking the last two CH exons in the Gentoo penguin. We did not find any evidence supporting the presence of IgD gene or subclass diversification of IgM/IgY in penguin or zebra finch. The obtained data in our study provide more insights into the immunoglobulin heavy chain genes in birds and may help to better understand the evolution of immunoglobulin genes in tetrapods.
Project description:Polydactyly is a common malformation and can be an isolated anomaly or part of a pleiotropic syndrome. The elucidation of the mutated genes that cause polydactyly provides insight into limb development pathways. The extra-toes spotting (Xs) mouse phenotype manifests anterior polydactyly, predominantly in the forelimbs, with ventral hypopigmenation. The mapping of Xs(J) to chromosome 7 was confirmed, and the interval was narrowed to 322 kb using intersubspecific crosses. Two mutations were identified in eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3 subunit C (Eif3c). An Eif3c c.907C>T mutation (p.Arg303X) was identified in Xs(J), and a c.1702_1758del mutation (p.Leu568_Leu586del) was identified in extra-toes spotting-like (Xsl), an allele of Xs(J). The effect of the Xs(J) mutation on the SHH/GLI3 pathway was analyzed by in situ hybridization analysis, and we show that Xs mouse embryos have ectopic Shh and Ptch1 expression in the anterior limb. In addition, anterior limb buds show aberrant Gli3 processing, consistent with perturbed SHH/GLI3 signaling. Based on the occurrence of Eif3c mutations in 2 Xs lines and haploinsufficiency of the Xs(J) allele, we conclude that the Xs phenotype is caused by a mutation in Eif3c, a component of the translation initiation complex, and that the phenotype is associated with aberrant SHH/GLI3 signaling.
Project description:The sternum bone lies at the ventral midline of the thorax where it provides a critical attachment for the pectoral muscles that allow the forelimbs to raise the body from the ground. Among tetrapods, sternum morphology is correlated with the mode of locomotion: Avians that fly have a ventral extension, or keel, on their sterna, which provides an increased area for flight muscle attachment. The sternum is fused with the ribs attaching on either side; however, unlike the ribs, the sternal precursors do not originate from the somites. Despite the crucial role of the sternum in tetrapod locomotion, little attention has been given to its acquisition, evolution, and embryological development. We demonstrate an essential role for the T-box transcription factor gene Tbx5 in sternum and forelimb formation and show that both structures share an embryological origin within the lateral plate mesoderm. Consistent with this shared origin and role of Tbx5, sternum defects are a characteristic feature of Holt-Oram Syndrome (OMIM 142900) caused by mutations in TBX5. We demonstrate a link between sternum size and forelimb use across avians and provide evidence that modulation of Tbx5 expression underlies the reduction in sternum and wing size in a flightless bird, the emu. We demonstrate that Tbx5 is a common node in the genetic pathways regulating forelimb and sternum development, enabling specific adaptations of these features without affecting other skeletal elements and can also explain the linked adaptation of sternum and forelimb morphology correlated with mode of locomotion.