Specification of embryonic mesoderm by Pinhead signaling
ABSTRACT: Among the three embryonic germ layers, mesoderm plays a central role in the establishment of the vertebrate body plan. Mesoderm is specified by secreted signaling proteins from the FGF, Nodal, BMP and Wnt families. No new classes of extracellular mesoderm-inducing factors have been identified in more than two decades. Here we show that the Xenopus pinhead (pnhd) gene encodes a novel secreted protein that activates specific mesodermal markers in presumptive ectoderm. We demonstrate that Pnhd is required for the specification of a subset of embryonic mesoderm in vivo. RNA sequencing revealed that many transcriptional targets of Pnhd are shared with those of the FGF pathway. Pnhd signaling involves active FGF but not Wnt receptors and is accompanied by Erk1 phosphorylation. We propose that Pnhd operates in the marginal zone to specify mesodermal progenitors via an FGF receptor-dependent mechanism. Overall design: Gain of function and loss of function study of Pinhead, a novel growth factor. Duplicate samples for control ectoderm explants (Cocaps1, Cocaps2) and Flag-Pinhead-expressing caps (FlagPin1, FlagPin2) at stage 11, gastrula were analyzed for Pinhead gain-of-function by RNAseq. For Pinhead loss-of-function, duplicate samples for control marginal zone explants (Co1, Co2) and Pinhead-depleted (Pinhead SpMo) marginal zone explants (PhSpMo1, PhSpMo2) were studied at st.11 by RNAseq.
Project description:During Xenopus gastrulation, mesendodermal cells are internalized and display different movements. Head mesoderm migrates along the blastocoel roof, while trunk mesoderm undergoes convergent extension (C&E). Different signals are implicated in these processes. Our previous studies reveal that signals through ErbB receptor tyrosine kinases modulate Xenopus gastrulation, but the mechanisms employed are not understood. Here we report that ErbB signals control both C&E and head mesoderm migration. Inhibition of ErbB pathway blocks elongation of dorsal marginal zone explants and activin-treated animal caps without removing mesodermal gene expression. Bipolar cell shape and cell mixing in the dorsal region are impaired. Inhibition of ErbB signaling also interferes with migration of prechordal mesoderm on fibronectin. Cell-cell and cell-matrix interaction and cell spreading are reduced when ErbB signaling is blocked. Using antisense morpholino oligonucleotides, we show that ErbB4 is involved in Xenopus gastrulation morphogenesis, and it partially regulates cell movements through modulation of cell adhesion and membrane protrusions. Our results reveal for the first time that vertebrate ErbB signaling modulates gastrulation movements, thus providing a novel pathway, in addition to non-canonical Wnt and FGF signals, that controls gastrulation. We further demonstrate that regulation of cell adhesive properties and cell morphology may underlie the functions of ErbBs in gastrulation.
Project description:During Xenopus early development, FGF signaling is involved in mesoderm formation and neurogenesis by modulating various signaling cascades. FGF-MAPK signaling induces Xbra expression, which maintains mesodermal fate through an autocatalytic-loop. Interestingly, previous reports have demonstrated that basic FGF (bFGF) treatment alone does not induce neurogenesis in ectodermal explants, even though FGF signaling inhibits BMP signaling via phosphorylation in Smad1 linker region. In addition, the overexpression of dominantnegative Xbra induces neurogenesis in ectodermal explants. However, the detailed mechanism underlying these phenomena has not yet been clarified. In this work, we showed that bFGF-Xbra signaling increased the PV.1 expression. DN-Xbra was found to decrease PV.1 expression, and the co-injection of PV.1 with DN-Xbra reduced neurogenesis in ectodermal explants. Furthermore, the knockdown of PV.1 induced neurogenesis in bFGF-treated ectodermal explants. Taken together, our results demonstrate that FGF-Xbra signaling induces PV.1 expression and that PV.1 functions as a neural repressor in the FGF-treated ectoderm.
Project description:The midline tissues are important inductive centers of early vertebrate embryos. By signal peptide selection screening, we isolated a secreted factor, Kielin, which contains multiple cys-rich repeats similar to those in chordin (Chd). Expression of Kielin starts at midgastrula stages in the notochord and is detected in the floor plate of neurula embryos. Kielin is induced in mesoderm and in ectoderm by nodal-related genes. Chd is sufficient to activate Kielin expression in mesoderm whereas Shh or HNF-3beta in addition to Chd is required for induction in ectoderm. Kielin has a distinct biological activity from that of Chd. Injection of Kielin mRNA causes dorsalization of ventral marginal zone explants and expansion of MyoD expression in neurula embryos. Unlike Chd, Kielin does not efficiently induce neural differentiation of animal cap ectoderm, suggesting that the activity of Kielin is not simply caused by BMP4 blockade. Kielin is a signaling molecule that mediates inductive activities of the embryonic midline.
Project description:In the frog, Xenopus laevis, fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling is required for both mesoderm formation and the morphogenetic movements that drive the elongation of the notochord, a dorsal mesodermal derivative; the coordination of these distinct roles is mediated by the Xenopus Ctr1 (Xctr1) protein: maternal Xctr1 is required for mesodermal differentiation, while the subsequent loss of Xctr1 promotes morphogenesis. The signaling cascade activated by FGF in the presence of Ctr1 has been well characterized; however, the Xctr1-independent, FGF-responsive network remains poorly defined. We have identified Xenopus Marginal Coil (Xmc) as a gene whose expression is highly enriched following Xctr1 knockdown. Zygotic initiation of Xmc expression in vivo coincides with a decrease in maternal Xctr1 transcripts; moreover, Xmc loss-of-function inhibits Xctr1 knockdown-mediated elongation of FGF-treated animal cap explants, implicating Xmc as a key effector of Xctr1-independent gastrular morphogenesis.
Project description:The neural crest arises at the border between the neural plate and the adjacent non-neural ectoderm. It has been suggested that both neural and non-neural ectoderm can contribute to the neural crest. Several studies have examined the molecular mechanisms that regulate neural crest induction in neuralized tissues or the neural plate border. Here, using the chick as a model system, we address the molecular mechanisms by which non-neural ectoderm generates neural crest. We report that in response to FGF the non-neural ectoderm can ectopically express several early neural crest markers (Pax7, Msx1, Dlx5, Sox9, FoxD3, Snail2, and Sox10). Importantly this response to FGF signaling can occur without inducing ectopic mesodermal tissues. Furthermore, the non-neural ectoderm responds to FGF by expressing the prospective neural marker Sox3, but it does not express definitive markers of neural or anterior neural (Sox2 and Otx2) tissues. These results suggest that the non-neural ectoderm can launch the neural crest program in the absence of mesoderm, without acquiring definitive neural character. Finally, we report that prior to the upregulation of these neural crest markers, the non-neural ectoderm upregulates both BMP and Wnt molecules in response to FGF. Our results provide the first effort to understand the molecular events leading to neural crest development via the non-neural ectoderm in amniotes and present a distinct response to FGF signaling.
Project description:Progenitors of the zebrafish pronephros, red blood and trunk endothelium all originate from the ventral mesoderm and often share lineage with one another, suggesting that their initial patterning is linked. Previous studies have shown that spadetail (spt) mutant embryos, defective in tbx16 gene function, fail to produce red blood cells, but retain the normal number of endothelial and pronephric cells. We report here that spt mutants are deficient in all the types of early blood, have fewer endothelial cells as well as far more pronephric cells compared to wildtype. In vivo cell tracing experiments reveal that blood and endothelium originate in spt mutants almost exclusive from the dorsal mesoderm whereas, pronephros and tail originate from both dorsal and ventral mesoderm. Together these findings suggest possible defects in posterior patterning. In accord with this, gene expression analysis shows that mesodermal derivatives within the trunk and tail of spt mutants have acquired more posterior identity. Secreted signaling molecules belonging to the Fgf, Wnt and Bmp families have been implicated as patterning factors of the posterior mesoderm. Further investigation demonstrates that Fgf and Wnt signaling are elevated throughout the nonaxial region of the spt gastrula. By manipulating Fgf signaling we show that Fgfs both promote pronephric fate and repress blood and endothelial fate. We conclude that Tbx16 plays an important role in regulating the balance of intermediate mesoderm fates by attenuating Fgf activity.
Project description:Neural crest induction involves the combinatorial inputs of the FGF, BMP and Wnt signaling pathways. Recently, a two-step model has emerged where BMP attenuation and Wnt activation induces the neural crest during gastrulation, whereas activation of both pathways maintains the population during neurulation. FGF is proposed to act indirectly during the inductive phase by activating Wnt ligand expression in the mesoderm. Here, we use the chick model to investigate the role of FGF signaling in the amniote neural crest for the first time and uncover a novel requirement for FGF/MAPK signaling. Contrary to current models, we demonstrate that FGF is required within the prospective neural crest epiblast during gastrulation and is unlikely to operate through mesodermal tissues. Additionally, we show that FGF/MAPK activity in the prospective neural plate prevents the ectopic expression of lateral ectoderm markers, independently of its role in neural specification. We then investigate the temporal participation of BMP/Smad signaling and suggest a later involvement in neural plate border development, likely due to widespread FGF/MAPK activity in the gastrula epiblast. Our results identify an early requirement for FGF/MAPK signaling in amniote neural crest induction and suggest an intriguing role for FGF-mediated Smad inhibition in ectodermal development.
Project description:In Xenopus, specification of the three germ layers is one of the earliest developmental decisions occurring prior to gastrulation. The maternally-expressed vegetally-localized transcription factor VegT has a central role in cell autonomous specification of endoderm and in the generation of mesoderm-inducing signals. Yet, marginally-expressed transcription factors that cooperate with mesoderm-inducing signals are less investigated. Here we report that the transcription factors MEF2A and MEF2D are expressed in the animal hemisphere before mid-blastula transition. At the initiation of zygotic transcription, expression of MEF2D expands into the marginal region that gives rise to mesoderm. Knockdown of MEF2D delayed gastrulation movements, prevented embryo elongation at the subsequent tailbud stage and caused severe defects in axial tissues. At the molecular level, MEF2D knockdown reduced the expression of genes involved in mesoderm formation and patterning. We also report that MEF2D functions with FGF signaling in a positive feedback loop; each augments the expression of the other in the marginal region and both are necessary for mesodermal gene expression. One target of MEF2D is the Nodal-related 1 gene (Xnr1) that mediates some of MEF2D mesodermal activities. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis revealed that MEF2D associates with transcriptional regulatory sequences of the Xnr1 gene. Several MEF2 binding sites within the proximal promoter region of Xnr1 were identified by their in vitro association with MEF2D protein. The same promoter region was necessary but not sufficient to mediate MEF2D activity in a reporter gene assay. In sum, our results indicate that the MEF2D protein is a key transcription factor in the marginal zone acting in a positive feedback loop with FGF signaling that promotes mesoderm specification at late blastula stages.
Project description:The neural crest is an induced tissue that is unique to vertebrates. In the clawed frog Xenopus laevis, neural crest induction depends on signals secreted from the prospective dorsolateral mesodermal zone during gastrulation. The transcription factors Snail2 (Slug), Snail1 and Twist1 are expressed in this region. It is known that Snail2 and Twist1 are required for both mesoderm formation and neural crest induction. Using targeted blastomere injection, morpholino-based loss of function and explant studies, we show that: (1) Snail1 is also required for mesoderm and neural crest formation; (2) loss of snail1, snail2 or twist1 function in the C2/C3 lineage of 32-cell embryos blocks mesoderm formation, but neural crest is lost only in the case of snail2 loss of function; (3) snail2 mutant loss of neural crest involves mesoderm-derived secreted factors and can be rescued synergistically by bmp4 and wnt8 RNAs; and (4) loss of snail2 activity leads to changes in the RNA levels of a number of BMP and Wnt agonists and antagonists. Taken together, these results identify Snail2 as a key regulator of the signals involved in mesodermal induction of neural crest.
Project description:Cellular competence is defined as a cell's ability to respond to signaling cues as a function of time. In Xenopus laevis, cellular responsiveness to fibroblast growth factor (FGF) changes during development. At blastula stages, FGF induces mesoderm, but at gastrula stages FGF regulates neuroectoderm formation. A Xenopus Oct3/4 homologue gene, XLPOU91, regulates mesoderm to neuroectoderm transitions. Ectopic XLPOU91 expression in Xenopus embryos inhibits FGF induction of Brachyury (Xbra), eliminating mesoderm, whereas neural induction is unaffected. XLPOU91 knockdown induces high levels of Xbra expression, with blastopore closure being delayed to later neurula stages. In morphant ectoderm explants, mesoderm responsiveness to FGF is extended from blastula to gastrula stages. The initial expression of mesoderm and endoderm markers is normal, but neural induction is abolished. Churchill (chch) and Sip1, two genes regulating neural competence, are not expressed in XLPOU91 morphant embryos. Ectopic Sip1 or chch expression rescues the morphant phenotype. Thus, XLPOU91 epistatically lies upstream of chch/Sip1 gene expression, regulating the competence transition that is critical for neural induction. In the absence of XLPOU91 activity, the cues driving proper embryonic cell fates are lost.