Retinoic acid alters hindbrain Hox code and induces transformation of rhombomeres 2/3 into a 4/5 identity.
MRC Laboratory of Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK.
It has been suggested that Hox genes play an important part in the patterning of limbs, vertebrae and craniofacial structures by providing an ordered molecular system of positional values, termed the Hox code. Little is known about the nature of the signals that govern the establishment and regulation of Hox genes, but retinoic acid can affect the expression of these genes in cell lines and in embryonic tissues. On the basis of experimental and clinical evidence, the hindbrain and branchial region of the head are particularly sensitive to the effects of retinoic acid but the phenotypes are complex and hard to interpret, and how and if they relate to Hox expression has not been clear. Here we follow the changes induced by retinoic acid to hindbrain segmentation and the branchial arches using transgenic mice which contain lacZ reporter genes that reveal the endogenous segment-restricted expression of the Hox-B1 (Hox-2.9), Hox-B2(Hox-2.8) and Krox-20 genes. Our results show that these genes rapidly respond to exposure to retinoic acid at preheadfold stages and undergo a progressive series of changes in segmental expression that are associated with specific phenotypes in hindbrain of first branchial arch. Together the molecular and anatomical alterations indicate that retinoic acid has induced changes in the hindbrain Hox code which result in the homeotic transformation of rhombomeres (r) 2/3 to an r4/5 identity. A main feature of this rhombomeric phenotype is that the trigeminal motor nerve is transformed to a facial identity. Furthermore, in support of this change in rhombomeric identity, neural crest cells derived from r2/3 also express posterior Hox markers suggesting that the retinoic acid-induced transformation extends to multiple components of the first branchial arch.
Cell Biosci. 2012 ;2 (1):11 22439772
School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong, P, R, China. email@example.com.
ABSTRACT: Retinoic acid (RA) is a morphogen derived from retinol (vitamin A) that plays important roles in cell growth, differentiation, and organogenesis. The production of RA from retinol requires two consecutive enzymatic reactions catalyzed by different sets of dehydrogenases. The retinol is first oxidized into retinal, which is then oxidized into RA. The RA interacts with retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and retinoic acid X receptor (RXR) which then regulate the target gene expression. In this review, we have discussed the metabolism of RA and the important components of RA signaling pathway, and highlighted current understanding of the functions of RA during early embryonic development.
J Anat. 2011 Dec ;219 (6):766-75 21951233
Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Wells College, Aurora, NY, USA.
When chicks are exposed to constant light (CL) during growth, their corneas become flatter and lighter in weight, and their anterior segments become shallower than those of chicks exposed to cyclical periods of light and dark. These effects have been correlated with CL suppression of cyclical changes in melatonin levels. The question of whether light directly influences corneal growth (e.g. via cryptochromes in the cornea) or acts remotely via the suppression of the melatonin rhythm has not yet been answered. Retinoic acid (RA), an ubiquitous morphogen, also causes non-functional flattening during corneal growth, but its effect in vivo has not been correlated with light regimes. We wished to characterize and distinguish between hormonal and light effects on corneal growth. We used organ culture to study the direct effects of light regimes, melatonin, and RA, and compared these results with those of parallel in vivo experiments. In this study, eye drops containing melatonin or RA were applied to corneas exposed to CL in vivo or in organ culture, and effects on corneal mass and hydration were measured. We applied a melatonin blocker, luzindole, to chick corneas in normal light/dark conditions to confirm that the observed melatonin effects are mediated at the cell membrane. Anterior chamber depth and refraction in vivo were measured. We found that, during CL exposure, combined application of melatonin and RA eye drops increased the depth of the anterior segment in vivo,(P = 0.003) and interestingly, both also reduced the hyperopia of CL exposure after 2 weeks (P = 0.002), thus partially reversing the effects of CL. RA increased corneal hydration in vivo (P = 0.030) but not in organ culture. Melatonin had no effect on corneal hydration in vivo, but in organ culture, melatonin significantly decreased hydration (P < 0.001). We found no evidence for a direct effect of light on corneal hydration in growing chick corneas in culture. Melatonin is required for normal corneal growth in vivo, and together melatonin and RA, or RA alone, affects the regulation of water content within the chick cornea. Melatonin also affects corneal hydration in vitro, but RA does not.
PLoS One. 2011 ;6 (5):e20197 21637844
Directed neural differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells is a sensitive system for the identification of novel Hox gene effectors.
Developmental Biology Laboratory, Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, Athens, Greece.
The evolutionarily conserved Hox family of homeodomain transcription factors plays fundamental roles in regulating cell specification along the anterior posterior axis during development of all bilaterian animals by controlling cell fate choices in a highly localized, extracellular signal and cell context dependent manner. Some studies have established downstream target genes in specific systems but their identification is insufficient to explain either the ability of Hox genes to direct homeotic transformations or the breadth of their patterning potential. To begin delineating Hox gene function in neural development we used a mouse ES cell based system that combines efficient neural differentiation with inducible Hoxb1 expression. Gene expression profiling suggested that Hoxb1 acted as both activator and repressor in the short term but predominantly as a repressor in the long run. Activated and repressed genes segregated in distinct processes suggesting that, in the context examined, Hoxb1 blocked differentiation while activating genes related to early developmental processes, wnt and cell surface receptor linked signal transduction and cell-to-cell communication. To further elucidate aspects of Hoxb1 function we used loss and gain of function approaches in the mouse and chick embryos. We show that Hoxb1 acts as an activator to establish the full expression domain of CRABPI and II in rhombomere 4 and as a repressor to restrict expression of Lhx5 and Lhx9. Thus the Hoxb1 patterning activity includes the regulation of the cellular response to retinoic acid and the delay of the expression of genes that commit cells to neural differentiation. The results of this study show that ES neural differentiation and inducible Hox gene expression can be used as a sensitive model system to systematically identify Hox novel target genes, delineate their interactions with signaling pathways in dictating cell fate and define the extent of functional overlap among different Hox genes.
Dev Cell. 2011 Apr 19;20 (4):469-82 21497760
Antonio Vitobello, Elisabetta Ferretti, Xavier Lampe, Nathalie Vilain, Sebastien Ducret, Michela Ori, Jean-François Spetz, Licia Selleri, Filippo M Rijli
Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland.
In vertebrate embryos, retinoic acid (RA) synthesized in the mesoderm by Raldh2 emanates to the hindbrain neuroepithelium, where it induces anteroposterior (AP)-restricted Hox expression patterns and rhombomere segmentation. However, how appropriate spatiotemporal RA activity is generated in the hindbrain is poorly understood. By analyzing Pbx1/Pbx2 and Hoxa1/Pbx1 null mice, we found that Raldh2 is itself under the transcriptional control of these factors and that the resulting RA-deficient phenotypes can be partially rescued by exogenous RA. Hoxa1-Pbx1/2-Meis2 directly binds a specific regulatory element that is required to maintain normal Raldh2 expression levels in vivo. Mesoderm-specific Xhoxa1 and Xpbx1b knockdowns in Xenopus embryos also result in Xraldh2 downregulation and hindbrain defects similar to mouse mutants, demonstrating conservation of this Hox-Pbx-dependent regulatory pathway. These findings reveal a feed-forward mechanism linking Hox-Pbx-dependent RA synthesis during early axial patterning with the establishment of spatially restricted Hox-Pbx activity in the developing hindbrain.
Conditional Tet-regulated over-expression of Hoxa2 in CG4 cells increases their proliferation and delays their differentiation into oligodendrocyte-like cells expressing myelin basic protein.
Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C9, Canada.
Hoxa2 gene was reported to be expressed by oligodendrocytes (OLs) and down-regulated at the terminal differentiation stage during oligodendrogenesis in mice (Nicolay et al. 2004b). To further investigate the role of Hoxa2 in oligodendroglial development, a tetracycline regulated controllable expression system was utilized to establish a stable cell line (CG4-SHoxa2 [sense Hoxa2]), where the expression level of Hoxa2 gene could be up-regulated. The impact of Hoxa2 over-expression on the proliferation and differentiation of CG4-SHoxa2 cells was investigated. Up-regulation of Hoxa2 increased the proliferation of CG4-SHoxa2 cells. The mRNA levels of PDGFαR (platelet-derived growth factor [PDGF] alpha receptor), which is expressed by OL progenitor cells, were not different in CG4-SHoxa2 cells compared to wild-type CG4 cells. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR revealed that the mRNA levels of myelin basic protein (MBP) was lower in CG4-SHoxa2 cells than in wild-type CG4 cells indicating the differentiation of CG4-SHoxa2 cells was delayed when the Hoxa2 gene was up-regulated.
R Craig Albertson, Yi-Lin Yan, Tom A Titus, Eva Pisano, Marino Vacchi, Pamela C Yelick, H William Detrich 3rd, John H Postlethwait
Department of Biology, Syracuse University, 130 College Place, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKGROUND Pedomorphism is the retention of ancestrally juvenile traits by adults in a descendant taxon. Despite its importance for evolutionary change, there are few examples of a molecular basis for this phenomenon. Notothenioids represent one of the best described species flocks among marine fishes, but their diversity is currently threatened by the rapidly changing Antarctic climate. Notothenioid evolutionary history is characterized by parallel radiations from a benthic ancestor to pelagic predators, which was accompanied by the appearance of several pedomorphic traits, including the reduction of skeletal mineralization that resulted in increased buoyancy. RESULTS We compared craniofacial skeletal development in two pelagic notothenioids, Chaenocephalus aceratus and Pleuragramma antarcticum, to that in a benthic species, Notothenia coriiceps, and two outgroups, the threespine stickleback and the zebrafish. Relative to these other species, pelagic notothenioids exhibited a delay in pharyngeal bone development, which was associated with discrete heterochronic shifts in skeletal gene expression that were consistent with persistence of the chondrogenic program and a delay in the osteogenic program during larval development. Morphological analysis also revealed a bias toward the development of anterior and ventral elements of the notothenioid pharyngeal skeleton relative to dorsal and posterior elements. CONCLUSIONS Our data support the hypothesis that early shifts in the relative timing of craniofacial skeletal gene expression may have had a significant impact on the adaptive radiation of Antarctic notothenioids into pelagic habitats.
Kirsty D Shearer, Timothy H Goodman, Alexander W Ross, Laura Reilly, Peter J Morgan, Peter J McCaffery
Institute of Medical Sciences, School of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.
Both retinoic acid (RA) and thyroid hormone (TH) regulate transcription via specific nuclear receptors. TH regulates hypothalamic homeostasis and active T3 is generated by deiodinase enzymes in tanycytes surrounding the third ventricle. However, RA has not been previously considered in such a role. Data presented here highlights novel parallels between the TH and RA synthetic pathways in the hypothalamus implying that RA also acts to regulate hypothalamic gene expression and function. Key elements of the RA cellular signaling pathway were shown to be regulated in the rodent hypothalamus. Retinoid synthetic enzymes and the retinol transport protein Stra6 were located in the cells lining the third ventricle allowing synthesis of RA from retinol present in the CNS to act via RA receptors and retinoid X receptors in the hypothalamus. Photoperiod manipulation was shown to alter the expression of synthetic enzymes and receptors with lengthening of photoperiod leading to enhanced RA signaling. In vitro RA can regulate the hypothalamic neuroendocrine peptide adrenocorticotrophic hormone. This work presents the new concept of controlled RA synthesis by hypothalamic tanycytes giving rise to possible involvement of this system in endocrine, and possibly vitamin A, homeostasis.
Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, New York 10461, USA. email@example.com
BACKGROUND In vertebrates, the inner ear is comprised of the cochlea and vestibular system, which develop from the otic vesicle. This process is regulated via inductive interactions from surrounding tissues. Tbx1, the gene responsible for velo-cardio-facial syndrome/DiGeorge syndrome in humans, is required for ear development in mice. Tbx1 is expressed in the otic epithelium and adjacent periotic mesenchyme (POM), and both of these domains are required for inner ear formation. To study the function of Tbx1 in the POM, we have conditionally inactivated Tbx1 in the mesoderm while keeping expression in the otic vesicle intact. RESULTS Conditional mutants (TCre-KO) displayed malformed inner ears, including a hypoplastic otic vesicle and a severely shortened cochlear duct, indicating that Tbx1 expression in the POM is necessary for proper inner ear formation. Expression of the mesenchyme marker Brn4 was also lost in the TCre-KO. Brn4-;Tbx1+/-embryos displayed defects in growth of the distal cochlea. To identify a potential signal from the POM to the otic epithelium, expression of retinoic acid (RA) catabolizing genes was examined in both mutants. Cyp26a1 expression was altered in the TCre-KO, while Cyp26c1 showed reduced expression in both TCre-KO and Brn4-;Tbx1+/- embryos. CONCLUSION These results indicate that Tbx1 expression in the POM regulates cochlear outgrowth potentially via control of local retinoic acid activity.
Retinol dehydrogenase 10 is a feedback regulator of retinoic acid signalling during axis formation and patterning of the central nervous system.
Stem Cell Center, Lund University, 22184 Lund, Sweden.
Retinoic acid (RA) is an important morphogen that regulates many biological processes, including the development of the central nervous system (CNS). Its synthesis from vitamin A (retinol) occurs in two steps, with the second reaction--catalyzed by retinal dehydrogenases (RALDHs)--long considered to be crucial for tissue-specific RA production in the embryo. We have recently identified the Xenopus homologue of retinol dehydrogenase 10 (XRDH10) that mediates the first step in RA synthesis from retinol to retinal. XRDH10 is specifically expressed in the dorsal blastopore lip and in other domains of the early embryo that partially overlap with XRALDH2 expression. We show that endogenous RA suppresses XRDH10 gene expression, suggesting negative-feedback regulation. In mRNA-injected Xenopus embryos, XRDH10 mimicked RA responses, influenced the gene expression of organizer markers, and synergized with XRALDH2 in posteriorizing the developing brain. Knockdown of XRDH10 and XRALDH2 by specific antisense morpholino oligonucleotides had the opposite effects on organizer gene expression, and caused a ventralized phenotype and anteriorization of the brain. These data indicate that the conversion of retinol into retinal is a developmentally controlled step involved in specification of the dorsoventral and anteroposterior body axes, as well as in pattern formation of the CNS. We suggest that the combinatorial gene expression and concerted action of XRDH10 and XRALDH2 constitute a ;biosynthetic enzyme code' for the establishment of a morphogen gradient in the embryo.
Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon, CNRS UMR5242-INRA 1288-ENS-UCBL, IFR128 BioSciences Lyon-Gerland, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Lyon, France.
Retinoic acid (RA) is a vitamin A-derived morphogen important for axial patterning and organ formation in developing vertebrates and invertebrate chordates (tunicates and cephalochordates). Recent analyses of genomic data have revealed that the molecular components of the RA signaling cascade are also present in other invertebrate groups, such as hemichordates and sea urchins. In this review, we reassess the evolutionary origins of the RA signaling pathway by examining the presence of key factors of this signaling cascade in different metazoan genomes and by comparing tissue-specific roles for RA during development of different animals. This discussion of genomic and developmental data suggests that RA signaling might have originated earlier in metazoan evolution than previously thought. On the basis of this hypothesis, we conclude by proposing a scenario for the evolution of RA functions during development, which highlights functional gains and lineage-specific losses during metazoan diversification. genesis 46:640-656, 2008.(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Other papers by authors:
Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK.
The Hox family of homeobox-containing genes are intimately associated with the processes of axial patterning in vertebrate embryos. This family of transcription factors is widely conserved in evolution and by analogy with their Drosophila counterparts, the HOM-C homeotic genes, may play a role in establishing regional identity in a number of embryonic systems, including the CNS. The patterns of expression of these genes are linked with the generation of rhombomeres and neural crest in the developing hindbrain, and suggest that they provide a molecular system for generating a combinatorial patterning mechanism. Analysis of mouse Hox mutants generated by homologous recombination have clearly demonstrated that the genes have important roles in normal regionalisation of the hindbrain and branchial arches, and this has lead to interest in how their early patterns are established in the nervous system. The Hox genes and their relation to hindbrain segmentation therefore provide a means of examining the cascade of events which regulates pattern formation in early neural development.
M Manzanares, P A Trainor, S Nonchev, L Ariza-McNaughton, J Brodie, A Gould, H Marshall, A Morrison, C T Kwan, M H Sham, D G Wilkinson, R Krumlauf
Division of Developmental Neurobiology, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London, NW7 1AA, United Kingdom.
The mouse kreisler gene is expressed in rhombomeres (r) 5 and 6 during neural development and kreisler mutants have patterning defects in the hindbrain that are not fully understood. Here we analyzed this phenotype with a combination of genetic, molecular, and cellular marking techniques. Using Hox/lacZ transgenic mice as reporter lines and by analyzing Eph/ephrin expression, we have found that while r5 fails to form in these mice, r6 is present. This shows that kreisler has an early role in the formation of r5. We also observed patterning defects in r3 and r4 that are outside the normal domain of kreisler expression. In both heterozygous and homozygous kreisler embryos some r5 markers are induced in r3, suggesting that there is a partial change in r3 identity that is not dependent upon the loss of r5. To investigate the cellular character of r6 in kreisler embryos we performed heterotopic grafting experiments in the mouse hindbrain to monitor its mixing properties. Control experiments revealed that cells from even- or odd-numbered segments only mixed freely with themselves, but not with cells of opposite character. Transposition of cells from the r6 territory of kreisler mutants reveals that they adopt mature r6 characteristics, as they freely mix only with cells from even-numbered rhombomeres. Analysis of Phox2b expression shows that some aspects of later neurogenesis in r6 are altered, which may be associated with the additional roles of kreisler in regulating segmental identity. Together these results suggest that the formation of r6 has not been affected in kreisler mutants. This analysis has revealed phenotypic and mechanistic differences between kreisler and its zebrafish equivalent valentino. While valentino is believed to subdivide preexisting segmental units, in the mouse kreisler specifies a particular segment. The formation of r6 independent of r5 argues against a role of kreisler in prorhombomeric segmentation of the mouse hindbrain. We conclude that the mouse kreisler gene regulates multiple steps in segmental patterning involving both the formation of segments and their A-P identity.
S Nonchev, C Vesque, M Maconochie, T Seitanidou, L Ariza-McNaughton, M Frain, H Marshall, M H Sham, R Krumlauf, P Charnay
Division of Developmental Neurobiology, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK.
The hindbrain is a segmented structure divided into repeating metameric units termed rhombomeres (r). The Hox family, vertebrate homologs of the Drosophila HOM-C homeotic selector genes, are expressed in rhombomere-restricted patterns and are believed to participate in regulating segmental identities. Krox-20, a zinc finger gene, has a highly conserved pattern of expression in r3 and r5 and is functionally required for their maintenance in mouse embryos. Krox-20 has been shown to directly regulate the Hoxb-2 gene and we wanted to determine if it was involved in regulating multiple Hox genes as a part of its functional role. Hoxa-2 is the only known paralog of Hoxb-2, and we examined the patterns of expression of the mouse Hoxa-2 gene with particular focus on r3 and r5 in wild type and Krox-20-/- mutant embryos. There was a clear loss of expression in r3, which indicated that Hoxa-2 was downstream of Krox-20. Using transgenic analysis with E. coli lacZ reporter genes we have identified and mapped an r3/r5 enhancer in the 5' flanking region of the Hoxa-2 gene. Deletion analysis narrowed this region to an 809 bp Bg/II fragment, and in vitro binding and competition assays with bacterially expressed Krox-20 protein identified two sites within the enhancer. Mutation of these Krox-20 sites in the regulatory region specifically abolished r3/r5 activity, but did not affect neural crest and mesodermal components. This indicated that the two Krox-20 sites are required in vivo for enhancer function. Furthermore, ectopic expression of Krox-20 in r4 was able to transactivate the Hoxa 2/lacZ reporter in this rhombomere. Together our findings suggest that Krox-20 directly participates in the transcriptional regulation of Hoxa-2 during hindbrain segmentation, and is responsible for the upregulation of the r3 and r5 domains of expression of both vertebrate group 2 Hox paralogs. Therefore, the segmental phenotypes in the Krox-20 mutants are likely to reflect the role of Krox-20 in directly regulating multiple Hox genes.
M H Sham, C Vesque, S Nonchev, H Marshall, M Frain, R D Gupta, J Whiting, D Wilkinson, P Charnay, R Krumlauf
MRC Laboratory of Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics, National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London.
The zinc finger gene Krox20 and many Hox homeobox genes are expressed in segment-restricted domains in the hindbrain. The restricted expression patterns appear before morphological segmentation, suggesting that these transcription factors may play an early role in the establishment and identity of rhombomeric segments. In this paper, we show that the HoxB2 (Hox2.8) gene is normally upregulated in rhombomeres (r) 3, 4, and 5, and we identify an enhancer region upstream of the gene that imposes r3/r5 expression in transgenic mice. This enhancer contains three Krox20-binding sites required in vitro for complex formation with Krox20 protein and in vivo for rhombomere-restricted expression. In transgenic mice, Krox20 expressed in ectopic domains can transactivate a reporter construct containing the HoxB2 r3/r5 enhancer. These data demonstrate that Krox20 is a part of the upstream transcriptional cascade that directly regulates HoxB2 expression during hindbrain segmentation.
Division of Anatomy and Cell Biology, UMDS, Guy's Hospital, London, UK.
Involvement of the Hox genes in regional specifications of the vertebrate body axis is suggested by sequence similarity with the homeotic selector genes of Drosophila, the conservation of a collinear relationship between genomic organization and site of expression, and mutational analysis. Subdivision of vertebrate embryo hindbrain neuroepithelium into lineage compartments (rhombomeres) underlies segmental patterning of neuronal differentiation. The rhombomere boundaries delimit domains of expression of Hox genes, presumed to be determinants of rhombomere phenotype, suggesting that Hox genes confer positional value; the formation of rhombomere 4 (r4) is followed by strong expression of Hox-2.9 within its confines. If the Hox genes are determinants, their expression should be autonomous from the developmental stage at which regional commitment becomes fixed and irreversible. We have transplanted the future r4 region (from state-9-chick embryos) into the more anterior position of r2 and probed for Hox-2.9 transcripts. We report here that Hox-2.9 was expressed in the ectopic r4 as strongly as in the normal r4, whereas reciprocal grafts of future r2 to r4 position did not express Hox-2.9. The phenotype of ectopic rhombomeres developed according to their original position, as demonstrated by retrograde tracing of efferent cranial nerve nuclei. As early as stage-9-(six somites), both Hox-2.9 expression and segment identity are autonomous in the chick embryo hindbrain, independent both of position in the neuroepithelium and of signals from the underlying mesoderm.
Division of Developmental Neurobiology, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London, NW7 1AA, United Kingdom.
During hindbrain development, segmental regulation of the paralogous Hoxa2 and Hoxb2 genes in rhombomeres (r) 3 and 5 involves Krox20-dependent enhancers that have been conserved during the duplication of the vertebrate Hox clusters from a common ancestor. Examining these evolutionarily related control regions could provide important insight into the degree to which the basic Krox20-dependent mechanisms, cis-regulatory components, and their organization have been conserved. Toward this goal we have performed a detailed functional analysis of a mouse Hoxa2 enhancer capable of directing reporter expression in r3 and r5. The combined activities of five separate cis-regions, in addition to the conserved Krox20 binding sites, are involved in mediating enhancer function. A CTTT (BoxA) motif adjacent to the Krox20 binding sites is important for r3/r5 activity. The BoxA motif is similar to one (Box1) found in the Hoxb2 enhancer and indicates that the close proximity of these Box motifs to Krox20 sites is a common feature of Krox20 targets in vivo. Two other rhombomeric elements (RE1 and RE3) are essential for r3/r5 activity and share common TCT motifs, indicating that they interact with a similar cofactor(s). TCT motifs are also found in the Hoxb2 enhancer, suggesting that they may be another common feature of Krox20-dependent control regions. The two remaining Hoxa2 cis-elements, RE2 and RE4, are not conserved in the Hoxb2 enhancer and define differences in some of components that can contribute to the Krox20-dependent activities of these enhancers. Furthermore, analysis of regulatory activities of these enhancers in a Krox20 mutant background has uncovered differences in their degree of dependence upon Krox20 for segmental expression. Together, this work has revealed a surprising degree of complexity in the number of cis-elements and regulatory components that contribute to segmental expression mediated by Krox20 and sheds light on the diversity and evolution of Krox20 target sites and Hox regulatory elements in vertebrates.
Cross-regulation in the mouse HoxB complex: the expression of Hoxb2 in rhombomere 4 is regulated by Hoxb1.
Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology, Medical Research Council (MRC), National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), London, UK.
Correct regulation of the segment-restricted patterns of Hox gene expression is essential for proper patterning of the vertebrate hindbrain. We have examined the molecular basis of restricted expression of Hoxb2 in rhombomere 4 (r4), by using deletion analysis in transgenic mice to identify an r4 enhancer from the mouse gene. A bipartite Hox/Pbx binding motif is located within this enhancer, and in vitro DNA binding experiments showed that the vertebrate labial-related protein Hoxb1 will cooperatively bind to this site in a Pbx/Exd-dependent manner. The Hoxb2 r4 enhancer can be transactivated in vivo by the ectopic expression of Hoxb1, Hoxa1, and Drosophila labial in transgenic mice. In contrast, ectopic Hoxb2 and Hoxb4 are unable to induce expression, indicating that in vivo this enhancer preferentially responds to labial family members. Mutational analysis demonstrated that the bipartite Hox/Pbx motif is required for r4 enhancer activity and the responses to retinoids and ectopic Hox expression. Furthermore, three copies of the Hoxb2 motif are sufficient to mediate r4 expression in transgenic mouse embryos and a labial pattern in Drosophila embryos. This reporter expression in Drosophila embryos is dependent upon endogenous labial and exd, suggesting that the ability of this Hox/Pbx site to interact with labial-related proteins has been evolutionarily conserved. The endogenous Hoxb2 gene is no longer upregulated in r4 in Hoxb1 homozygous mutant embryos. On the basis of these experiments we conclude that the r4-restricted domain of Hoxb2 in the hindbrain is the result of a direct cross-regulatory interaction by Hoxb1 involving vertebrate Pbx proteins as cofactors. This suggests that part of the functional role of Hoxb1 in maintaining r4 identity may be mediated by the Hoxb2 gene.
Department of Zoology, Oxford University, UK.
kreisler is a recessive mutation resulting in gross malformation of the inner ear of homozygous mice. The defects in the inner ear are related to abnormalities in the hindbrain of the embryo, adjacent to the ear rudiments. At E9.5, the neural tube posterior to the boundary between the third and fourth rhombomeres, r3 and r4, appears unsegmented, and the region that would normally correspond to r4 is unusually thick-walled and contains many dying cells. The absence of morphological segmentation in the posterior hindbrain corresponds to an altered pattern of gene expression in that region, with major abnormalities posterior to the r4/5 boundary and minor abnormalities anterior to it. From the expression patterns at E9.5 of Krox-20, Hoxb-1 (Hox 2.9), Hoxb-2 (Hox 2.8), Hoxa-3 (Hox 1.5), Hoxd-4 (Hox 4.2) and cellular retinoic-acid binding protein I (CRABP I), it appears that the fundamental defect is a loss of r5 and r6. Correspondingly, the glossopharyngeal ganglion and nerve, associated with r6 are missing and the abducens nerve, which originates from r5 and r6, is also absent. Examination of Krox-20 expression at stages as early as E8.5 indicates that Krox-20 fails ever to be expressed in its r5 domain in the homozygous kreisler mutant. The abnormal amount of cell death is seen only later. An interpretation is that the cells that would normally become specified at an early stage as r5 and r6 adopt an r4 character instead, producing an excess of r4 cells that is disposed of subsequently by cell death.
The branchial Hox code and its implications for gene regulation, patterning of the nervous system and head evolution.
P Hunt, J Whiting, S Nonchev, M H Sham, H Marshall, A Graham, M Cook, R Allemann, P W Rigby, M Gulisano
Lab of Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics, MRC-National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK.
In this study we have examined the expression of murine Hox homeobox containing genes by in situ hybridisation in the branchial region of the head. Genes from the Hox complexes display segmentally restricted domains of expression in the developing hindbrain, which are correlated with similar restricted domains in the neural crest and surface ectoderm of the branchial arches. Comparison of related genes from the different clusters shows that subfamily members are expressed in identical rhombomeres and branchial arches. These patterns suggest a combinatorial system for specifying regional variation in the head, which we refer to as a Hox code. The Hox genes also display dynamic dorso-ventral (D-V) restrictions in the developing neural tube which mirror the timing and spatial distributions of the birth of major classes of neurons in the CNS. Genes in the Hox-2 cluster all have a similar D-V distribution that differs from that of genes from the other Hox clusters, and suggests that members of a subfamily may be used to specify positional values to different subsets of cells at the same axial level. These results are discussed in terms of a system for patterning the branchial regions of the vertebrate head, and evolution of head structures. We have also examined aspects of the transcriptional regulation of Hox-2 genes in transgenic mice using a lacZ reporter gene. We have been able to reconstruct the major pattern of the Hox-2.6 gene on the basis of identical expression of the transgene and the endogenous gene with respect to timing, spatial restrictions and tissue-specific distributions. Deletion analysis has enabled us to identify three regions involved in generating this pattern. Two of these regions have the properties of enhancers which are capable of imposing spatially-restricted domains of expression on heterologous promoters. We have generated similar Hox-lacZ fusions that reconstruct the highly restricted patterns of the Hox-2.1 and Hox-2.8 genes in the developing nervous system, supporting our in situ analysis and the idea of a Hox code. These transgenic experiments are a useful step in examining regulation in the Hox cascade.
Laboratory of Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics, National Institute of Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK.
Antennapedia class homeobox genes, which in insects are involved in regional specification of the segmented central regions of the body, have been implicated in a similar role in the vertebrate hindbrain. The development of the hindbrain involves the establishment of compartments which are subsequently made distinct from each other by Hox gene expression, implying that the lineage of neural cells may be an important factor in their development. The hindbrain produces the neural crest that gives rise to the cartilages of the branchial skeleton. Lineage also seems to be important in the neural crest, as experiments have shown that the crest will form cartilages appropriate to its level of origin when grafted to a heterotopic location. We show how the Hox genes could also be involved in patterning the mesenchymal structures of the branchial skeleton. Recently it has been proposed that the rhombomere-restricted expression pattern of Hox 2 genes is the result of a tight spatially localised induction from underlying head mesoderm, in which a prepattern of Hox expression is visible. We find no evidence for this model, our data being consistent with the idea that the spatially localised expression pattern is a result of segmentation processes whose final stages are intrinsic to the neural plate. We suggest the following model for patterning in the branchial region. At first a segment-restricted code of Hox gene expression becomes established in the neuro-epithelium and adjacent presumptive neural crest. This expression is then maintained in the neural crest during migration, resulting in a Hox code in the cranial ganglia and branchial mesenchyme that reflects the crest's rhombomere of origin. The final stage is the establishment of Hox 2 expression in the surface ectoderm which is brought into contact with neural crest-derived branchial mesenchyme. The Hox code of the branchial ectoderm is established later in development than that of the neural plate and crest, and involves the same combination of genes as the underlying crest. Experimental observations suggest the idea of an instructive interaction between branchial crest and its overlying ectoderm, which would be consistent with our observations. The distribution of clusters of Antennapedia class genes within the animal kingdom suggests that the primitive chordates ancestral to vertebrates had at least one Hox cluster. The origin of the vertebrates is thought to have been intimately linked to the appearance of the neural crest, initially in the branchial region.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
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prep1.2 and aldh1a2 participate to a positive loop required for branchial arches development in zebrafish.
Enrico Vaccari, Gianluca Deflorian, Elisa Bernardi, Stefan Pauls, Natascia Tiso, Marino Bortolussi, Francesco Argenton
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Padova, Via Bassi 58B, Padova, Italy.
Segmentation is a key step in embryonic development. Acting in all germ layers, it is responsible for the generation of antero-posterior asymmetries. Hox genes, with their diverse expression in individual segments, are fundamental players in the determination of different segmental fates. In vertebrates, Hox gene products gain specificity for DNA sequences by interacting with Pbx, Prep and Meis homeodomain transcription factors. In this work we cloned and analysed prep1.2 in zebrafish. In-situ hybridization experiments show that prep1.2 is maternally and ubiquitously expressed up to early somitogenesis when its expression pattern becomes more restricted to the head and trunk mesenchyme. Experiments of loss of function with prep1.2 morpholinos change the shape of the hyoid and third pharyngeal cartilages while arches 4-7 and pectoral fins are absent, a phenotype strikingly similar to that caused by loss of retinoic acid (RA). In fact, we show that prep1.2 is positively regulated by RA and required for the normal expression of aldh1a2 at later stages, particularly in tissues involved in the development of the branchial arches and pectoral fins. Thus, prep1.2 and aldh1a2 are members of an indirect positive feedback loop required for pharyngeal endoderm and posterior branchial arches development. As the paralogue gene prep1.1 is more important in hindbrain patterning and neural crest chondrogenesis, we provide evidence of a functional specialization of prep genes in zebrafish head segmentation and morphogenesis.
Genetic disruption of CYP26B1 severely affects development of neural crest derived head structures, but does not compromise hindbrain patterning.
Departments of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Division of Cancer Biology and Genetics, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.
Cyp26b1 encodes a cytochrome-P450 enzyme that catabolizes retinoic acid (RA), a vitamin A derived signaling molecule. We have examined Cyp26b1(-/-) mice and report that mutants exhibit numerous abnormalities in cranial neural crest cell derived tissues. At embryonic day (E) 18.5 Cyp26b1(-/-) animals exhibit a truncated mandible, abnormal tooth buds, reduced ossification of calvaria, and are missing structures of the maxilla and nasal process. Some of these abnormalities may be due to defects in formation of Meckel's cartilage, which is truncated with an unfused distal region at E14.5 in mutant animals. Despite the severe malformations, we did not detect any abnormalities in rhombomere segmentation, or in patterning and migration of anterior hindbrain derived neural crest cells. Abnormal migration of neural crest cells toward the posterior branchial arches was observed, which may underlie defects in larynx and hyoid development. These data suggest different periods of sensitivity of anterior and posterior hindbrain neural crest derivatives to elevated levels of RA in the absence of CYP26B1. Developmental Dynamics 238:732-745, 2009.(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.
Neurons of cranial sensory ganglia are derived from the neural crest and ectodermal placodes, but the mechanisms that control the relative contributions of each are not understood. Crest cells of the second branchial arch generate few facial ganglion neurons and no vestibuloacoustic ganglion neurons, but crest cells in other branchial arches generate many sensory neurons. Here we report that the facial ganglia of Hoxa2 mutant mice contain a large population of crest-derived neurons, suggesting that Hoxa2 normally represses the neurogenic potential of second arch crest cells. This may represent an anterior transformation of second arch neural crest cells toward a fate resembling that of first arch neural crest cells, which normally do not express Hoxa2 or any other Hox gene. We additionally found that overexpressing Hoxa2 in cultures of P19 embryonal carcinoma cells reduced the frequency of spontaneous neuronal differentiation, but only in the presence of cotransfected Pbx and Meis Hox cofactors. Finally, expression of Hoxa2 and the cofactors in chick neural crest cells populating the trigeminal ganglion also reduced the frequency of neurogenesis in the intact embryo. These data suggest an unanticipated role for Hox genes in controlling the neurogenic potential of at least some cranial neural crest cells.
Department of Molecular Medicine & Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, The University of Auckland, P.O. 92019, Auckland, New Zealand.
The vertebrate craniofacial skeleton develops via a complex process involving signaling cascades in all three germ layers. Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling is essential for several steps in pharyngeal arch development. In zebrafish, Fgf3 and Fgf8 in the mesoderm and hindbrain have an early role to pattern the pouch endoderm, influencing craniofacial integrity. Endodermal FGF signaling is required for the differentiation and survival of postmigratory neural crest cells that form the pharyngeal skeleton. We identify a novel role for zebrafish Fgf receptor-like 1a (Fgfrl1a) that is indispensable during gill cartilage development. We show that depletion of Fgfrl1a is sufficient to abolish cartilage derivatives of the ceratobranchials. Using an Fgfrl1a-deficient model, we analyzed expression of genes critical for chondrogenesis in the different compartments of the developing pharyngeal arch. Fgfrl1a-depleted animals demonstrate typical neural crest specification and migration to populate the arch primordia as well as normal pouch segmentation. However, in the absence of Fgfrl1a, larvae fail to express the transcription factor glial cells missing 2 (gcm2), a gene necessary for cartilage and gill filament formation, in the ectodermal lining of the branchial arches. In addition, two transcription factors essential for chondrogenesis, sox9a and runx2b, fail to express within the mesenchymal condensations of the branchial arches. A duplicate zebrafish gene, fgfrl1b, has now been identified. We show that Fgfrl1b is also required for proper formation of all ventral cartilage elements and acts cooperatively with Fgfrl1a during gill cartilage formation.
Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/ULP, UMR 7104, BP 10142, CU de Strasbourg, 67404 Illkirch Cedex, France.
Little is known about the spatiotemporal requirement of Hox gene patterning activity in vertebrates. In Hoxa2 mouse mutants, the hyoid skeleton is replaced by a duplicated set of mandibular and middle ear structures. Here, we show that Hoxa2 is selectively required in cranial neural crest cells (NCCs). Moreover, we used a Cre-ERT2 recombinase system to induce a temporally controlled Hoxa2 deletion in the mouse. Hoxa2 inactivation after cranial NCC migration into branchial arches resulted in homeotic transformation of hyoid into mandibular arch skeletal derivatives, reproducing the conventional Hoxa2 knockout phenotype, and induced rapid changes in Alx4, Bapx1, Six2 and Msx1 expression patterns. Thus, hyoid NCCs retain a remarkable degree of plasticity even after their migration in the arch, and require Hoxa2 as an integral component of their morphogenetic program. Moreover, subpopulations of postmigratory NCCs required Hoxa2 at discrete time points to pattern distinct derivatives. This study provides the first temporal inactivation of a vertebrate Hox gene and illustrates Hox requirement during late morphogenetic processes.
Division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.
Retinoic acid (RA), the active metabolite of vitamin A, regulates cellular growth and differentiation during embryonic development. In excess, this vitamin is also highly teratogenic to animals and humans. The neural crest is particularly sensitive to RA, and high levels adversely affect migration, proliferation and cell death. We investigated potential gene targets of RA associated with neural crest proliferation by determining RA-mediated changes in gene expression over time, using microarrays. Statistical analysis of the top ranked RA-regulated genes identified modest changes in multiple genes previously associated with cell cycle control and proliferation including the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors Cdkn1a (p21), Cdkn2b (p15(INK4b)), and Gas3/PMP22. The expression of p21 and p15(INK4b) contribute to decreased proliferation by blocking cell cycle progression at G1-S. This checkpoint is pivotal to decisions regulating proliferation, apoptosis, or differentiation. We have also confirmed the overexpression of Gas3/PMP22 in RA-treated neural crests, which is associated with cytoskeletal changes and increased apoptosis. Our results suggest that increases in multiple components of diverse regulatory pathways have an overall cumulative effect on cellular decisions. This heterogeneity contributes to the pleiotropic effects of RA, specifically those affecting proliferation and cell death.
Department of Biology, University of Milan, Milan, Italy. firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKGROUND Triadimefon is an antifungal derived from triazole. In in vitro whole-rodent embryo cultures, triazole-derivatives showed specific teratogenic effects at the branchial apparatus. The aim of the present work was to test in vivo triadimefon (FON), in order to verify a relationship between triazole exposure, embryonic abnormalities, and/or fetal malformations. METHODS Pregnant CD-1 mice were treated with 0-300 mg/kg FON by gavage on day 8 post coitum (p.c.) at 10:00 AM, and sacrificed on day 8 p.c. at 1:00 PM, on day 9 p.c. at 10:00 AM, on day 10 p.c. at 10:00 AM, and at term of gestation (day 18 p.c.). At midgestation, the embryos were processed for specific immunostainings to visualize the hindbrain segmentation (day 8 p.c.) and the neural crest cell migration (days 8 and 9 p.c.). Fetuses explanted at term were all processed for skeletal examination after double-staining of osseous and cartilaginous tissues. RESULTS At midgestation, the immunostaining of rhombomeres 3 and 5 showed a light scattering of the immunostained areas; the neural crest cell migration was unaffected, but their localization at the branchial arch level was abnormal. At term, several severe malformations were observed at the craniofacial and at the axial skeletal level. Ectopic cartilage was observed at the upper jaw. CONCLUSIONS Triadimefon is teratogenic. The observed craniofacial malformations could be explained by an alteration of the rhombomeric organization and neural crest migration to the branchial arches; the axial abnormalities could be explained by the abnormal segmental identity specification.
Institute of Neuroscience, 1254 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA. email@example.com
In vertebrate embryos, streams of cranial neural crest (CNC) cells migrate to form segmental pharyngeal arches and differentiate into segment-specific parts of the facial skeleton. To identify genes involved in specifying segmental identity in the vertebrate head, we screened for mutations affecting cartilage patterning in the zebrafish larval pharynx. We present the positional cloning and initial phenotypic characterization of a homeotic locus discovered in this screen. We show that a zebrafish ortholog of the human oncogenic histone acetyltransferase MOZ (monocytic leukemia zinc finger) is required for specifying segmental identity in the second through fourth pharyngeal arches. In moz mutant zebrafish, the second pharyngeal arch is dramatically transformed into a mirror-image duplicated jaw. This phenotype resembles a similar but stronger transformation than that seen in hox2 morpholino oligo (hox2-MO) injected animals. In addition, mild anterior homeotic transformations are seen in the third and fourth pharyngeal arches of moz mutants. moz is required for maintenance of most hox1-4 expression domains and this requirement probably at least partially accounts for the moz mutant homeotic phenotypes. Homeosis and defective Hox gene expression in moz mutants is rescued by inhibiting histone deacetylase activity with Trichostatin A. Although we find early patterning of the moz mutant hindbrain to be normal, we find a late defect in facial motoneuron migration in moz mutants. Pharyngeal musculature is transformed late, but not early, in moz mutants. We detect relatively minor defects in arch epithelia of moz mutants. Vital labeling of arch development reveals no detectable changes in CNC generation in moz mutants, but later prechondrogenic condensations are mispositioned and misshapen. Mirror-image hox2-dependent gene expression changes in postmigratory CNC prefigure the homeotic phenotype in moz mutants. Early second arch ventral expression of goosecoid (gsc) in moz mutants and in animals injected with hox2-MOs shifts from lateral to medial, mirroring the first arch pattern. bapx1, which is normally expressed in first arch postmigratory CNC prefiguring the jaw joint, is ectopically expressed in second arch CNC of moz mutants and hox2-MO injected animals. Reduction of bapx1 function in wild types causes loss of the jaw joint. Reduction of bapx1 function in moz mutants causes loss of both first and second arch joints, providing functional genetic evidence that bapx1 contributes to the moz-deficient homeotic pattern. Together, our results reveal an essential embryonic role and a crucial histone acetyltransferase activity for Moz in regulating Hox expression and segmental identity, and provide two early targets, bapx1 and gsc, of moz and hox2 signaling in the second pharyngeal arch.
Graded potential of neural crest to form cornea, sensory neurons and cartilage along the rostrocaudal axis.
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.
Neural crest cells arising from different rostrocaudal axial levels form different sets of derivatives as diverse as ganglia, cartilage and cornea. These variations may be due to intrinsic properties of the cell populations, different environmental factors encountered during migration or some combination thereof. We test the relative roles of intrinsic versus extrinsic factors by challenging the developmental potential of cardiac and trunk neural crest cells via transplantation into an ectopic midbrain environment. We then assess long-term survival and differentiation into diverse derivatives, including cornea, trigeminal ganglion and branchial arch cartilage. Despite their ability to migrate to the periocular region, neither cardiac nor trunk neural crest contribute appropriately to the cornea, with cardiac crest cells often forming ectopic masses on the corneal surface. Similarly, the potential of trunk and cardiac neural crest to form somatosensory neurons in the trigeminal ganglion was significantly reduced compared with control midbrain grafts. Cardiac neural crest exhibited a reduced capacity to form cartilage, contributing only nominally to Meckle's cartilage, whereas trunk neural crest formed no cartilage after transplantation, even when grafted directly into the first branchial arch. These results suggest that neural crest cells along the rostrocaudal axis display a graded loss in developmental potential to form somatosensory neurons and cartilage even after transplantation to a permissive environment. Hox gene expression was transiently maintained in the cardiac neural tube and neural crest at 12 hours post-transplantation to the midbrain, but was subsequently downregulated. This suggests that long-term differences in Hox gene expression cannot account for rostrocaudal differences in developmental potential of neural crest populations in this case.
Relationship between hindbrain segmentation, neural crest cell migration and branchial arch abnormalities in rat embryos exposed to fluconazole and retinoic acid in vitro.
Department of Biology, University of Milan, Via Celoria, 26-20133 Milan, Italy.
Fluconazole (FLUCO) and retinoic acid (RA) can perturb morphogenesis of the branchial apparatus in rodent embryos exposed in vitro. The aim of the present study was to compare the effects induced by in vitro exposure to FLUCO or to RA on rhombomere organisation, neural crest cell (NCC) migration and cranial nerve differentiation using specific antibodies. For this purpose 9.5 d.p.c. rat embryos were exposed to teratogenic concentrations of FLUCO or RA; another group was exposed to no-effect concentrations of both agents. Expression of Hox-b1 and Krox20 (markers of specific rhombomeres) was altered after FLUCO and RA exposure. Furthermore, FLUCO and RA showed a synergistic effect. These results suggest that the observed branchial abnormalities are due to anomalous NCC migration related to incorrect organisation of specific rhombomeres.