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- Development of the vertebrate tailbud. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol 2014 Nov 10.
The anatomical tailbud is a defining feature of all embryonic chordates, including vertebrates that do not end up with a morphological tail. Due to its seamless continuity with trunk tissues, the tailbud is often overlooked as a mere extension of the body axis; however, the formation of the tail from the tailbud undoubtedly involves unique and distinct mechanisms for forming axial tissues, such as the secondary neurulation process that generates the tailbud-derived spinal cord. Tailbud formation in the frog Xenopus laevis has been demonstrated to involve interaction of three posterior regions of the embryo that first come into alignment at the end of gastrulation, and molecular models for tailbud outgrowth and patterning have been proposed. While classical studies of other vertebrate models, such as the chicken, initially appeared to draw incompatible conclusions, molecular studies have subsequently shown the involvement of at least some similar genetic pathways. Finally, there is an emerging consensus that at least some vertebrate tailbud cells are multipotent progenitors with the ability to form tissues normally derived from different germ layers- a trait normally associated with regeneration of complex appendages, or stem-like cells. Conflict of interest: The author has declared no conflicts of interest for this article. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
- Comparative Genomic Analysis of slc39a12/ZIP12: Insight into a Zinc Transporter Required for Vertebrate Nervous System Development. [Journal Article]
- PLoS One 2014; 9(11):e111535.
The zinc transporter ZIP12, which is encoded by the gene slc39a12, has previously been shown to be important for neuronal differentiation in mouse Neuro-2a neuroblastoma cells and primary mouse neurons and necessary for neurulation during Xenopus tropicalis embryogenesis. However, relatively little is known about the biochemical properties, cellular regulation, or the physiological role of this gene. The hypothesis that ZIP12 is a zinc transporter important for nervous system function and development guided a comparative genetics approach to uncover the presence of ZIP12 in various genomes and identify conserved sequences and expression patterns associated with ZIP12. Ortholog detection of slc39a12 was conducted with reciprocal BLAST hits with the amino acid sequence of human ZIP12 in comparison to the human paralog ZIP4 and conserved local synteny between genomes. ZIP12 is present in the genomes of almost all vertebrates examined, from humans and other mammals to most teleost fish. However, ZIP12 appears to be absent from the zebrafish genome. The discrimination of ZIP12 compared to ZIP4 was unsuccessful or inconclusive in other invertebrate chordates and deuterostomes. Splice variation, due to the inclusion or exclusion of a conserved exon, is present in humans, rats, and cows and likely has biological significance. ZIP12 also possesses many putative di-leucine and tyrosine motifs often associated with intracellular trafficking, which may control cellular zinc uptake activity through the localization of ZIP12 within the cell. These findings highlight multiple aspects of ZIP12 at the biochemical, cellular, and physiological levels with likely biological significance. ZIP12 appears to have conserved function as a zinc uptake transporter in vertebrate nervous system development. Consequently, the role of ZIP12 may be an important link to reported congenital malformations in numerous animal models and humans that are caused by zinc deficiency.
- Embryonic Expression and Function of the Xenopus Ink4d Cyclin D-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Cell Dev Biol 2014 Feb 15; 3(1)
Here we report the cloning and functional characterization of the cyclin D-dependent kinase 4 and 6 (Cdk4/6) inhibitory protein Cdkn2d/p19(Ink4d) of Xenopuslaevis (Xl-Ink4d). Xl-Ink4d is the only Ink4 family gene highly expressed during Xenopus development and its transcripts were detected maternally and during neurulation. The Xl-Ink4d protein has 63% identity to mouse and human Cdkn2d/p19(Ink4d) and its function as a negative regulator of cell cycle traverse is evolutionary conserved. Indeed, Xl-lnk4d can functionally substitute for mouse Cdkn2d in binding to mouse Cdk4 and inhibiting cyclin-D1-dependent CDK4 kinase activity. Further, enforced expression of Xl-lnk4d arrests mouse fibroblasts in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. These findings indicate that CDKN2d/p19(Ink4d) is conserved through vertebrate evolution and suggest Xl-lnk4d may contribute to the development of Xenopuslaevis.
- Cell lineages and fate maps in tunicates: conservation and modification. [Journal Article]
- Zoolog Sci 2014 Oct; 31(10):645-52.
Comparison of features of the cell lineages and fate maps of early embryos between related species is useful in inferring developmental mechanisms and amenable to evolutionary considerations. We present cleavage patterns, cell lineage trees, and fate maps of ascidian and appendicularian embryos side by side to facilitate comparison. This revealed a number of significant differences in cleavage patterns and cell lineage trees, whereas the fate maps were found to be conserved. This fate map similarity can be extended to vertebrates, thus representing the fate map characteristics of chordates. Cleavage patterns and cell lineages may have been modified during evolution without any drastic changes in fate maps. Selective pressures that constrain developmental mechanisms at early embryonic stages might not be so strong as long as embryos are still able to generate a chordate-type fate map. Aquatic chordates share similar fate maps and morphogenetic movements during gastrulation and neurulation, eventually developing into tadpole-shaped larvae. As swimming by tail beats, and not by cilia, is advantageous, selective pressure may maintain the basic elements of the tadpole shape. We also discuss the evolutionary origin of the vertebrate neural crest and the embryonic origin of the appendicularian heart to illustrate the usefulness of cell lineage data. From an evolutionary standpoint, cell lineages behave like other characteristics such as morphology or protein sequences. Both novel and primitive features are present in extant organisms, and it is of interest to identify the relative degree of evolutionary conservation as well as the level at which homology is inferred.
- Junctional neurulation: a unique developmental program shaping a discrete region of the spinal cord highly susceptible to neural tube defects. [Journal Article]
- J Neurosci 2014 Sep 24; 34(39):13208-21.
In higher vertebrates, the primordium of the nervous system, the neural tube, is shaped along the rostrocaudal axis through two consecutive, radically different processes referred to as primary and secondary neurulation. Failures in neurulation lead to severe anomalies of the nervous system, called neural tube defects (NTDs), which are among the most common congenital malformations in humans. Mechanisms causing NTDs in humans remain ill-defined. Of particular interest, the thoracolumbar region, which encompasses many NTD cases in the spine, corresponds to the junction between primary and secondary neurulations. Elucidating which developmental processes operate during neurulation in this region is therefore pivotal to unraveling the etiology of NTDs. Here, using the chick embryo as a model, we show that, at the junction, the neural tube is elaborated by a unique developmental program involving concerted movements of elevation and folding combined with local cell ingression and accretion. This process ensures the topological continuity between the primary and secondary neural tubes while supplying all neural progenitors of both the junctional and secondary neural tubes. Because it is distinct from the other neurulation events, we term this phenomenon junctional neurulation. Moreover, the planar-cell-polarity member, Prickle-1, is recruited specifically during junctional neurulation and its misexpression within a limited time period suffices to cause anomalies that phenocopy lower spine NTDs in human. Our study thus provides a molecular and cellular basis for understanding the causality of NTD prevalence in humans and ascribes to Prickle-1 a critical role in lower spinal cord formation.
- Xenopus mutant reveals necessity of rax for specifying the eye field which otherwise forms tissue with telencephalic and diencephalic character. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Dev Biol 2014 Sep 16.
The retinal anterior homeobox (rax) gene encodes a transcription factor necessary for vertebrate eye development. rax transcription is initiated at the end of gastrulation in Xenopus, and is a key part of the regulatory network specifying anterior neural plate and retina. We describe here a Xenopus tropicalis rax mutant, the first mutant analyzed in detail from a reverse genetic screen. As in other vertebrates, this nonsense mutation results in eyeless animals, and is lethal peri-metamorphosis. Tissue normally fated to form retina in these mutants instead forms tissue with characteristics of diencephalon and telencephalon. This implies that a key role of rax, in addition to defining the eye field, is in preventing alternative forebrain identities. Our data highlight that brain and retina regions are not determined by the mid-gastrula stage but are by the neural plate stage. An RNA-Seq analysis and in situ hybridization assays for early gene expression in the mutant revealed that several key eye field transcription factors (e.g. pax6, lhx2 and six6) are not dependent on rax activity through neurulation. However, these analyses identified other genes either up- or down-regulated in mutant presumptive retinal tissue. Two neural patterning genes of particular interest that appear up-regulated in the rax mutant RNA-seq analysis are hesx1 and fezf2. These genes were not previously known to be regulated by rax. The normal function of rax is to partially repress their expression by an indirect mechanism in the presumptive retina region in wildtype embryos, thus accounting for the apparent up-regulation in the rax mutant. Knock-down experiments using antisense morpholino oligonucleotides directed against hesx1 and fezf2 show that failure to repress these two genes contributes to transformation of presumptive retinal tissue into non-retinal forebrain identities in the rax mutant.
- Genetic studies of ANKRD6 as a molecular switch between Wnt signaling pathways in human neural tube defects. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 2014 Sep 8.
Planar cell polarity (PCP) is a major branch of Wnt signaling that controls the process of convergent extension in gastrulation and neurulation. PCP defects were associated with neural tube defects (NTDs) that are the most common central nervous system anomalies. PCP signaling is highly dosage sensitive and exhibits an antagonistic relationship with the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Diversin, encoded by Ankrd6, is an ankyrin repeat protein that activates the non canonical PCP signaling and simultaneously inhibits the canonical pathway.In this study, we analyzed this dual role of ANKRD6 in NTDs. We sequenced its coding region in 473 NTD patients and 150 controls, and we validated the effect of the identified variants on Wnt signaling using reporter assays in mammalian cells.We identified four rare missense mutations in 0.8% of the NTD patients and two rare missense mutations in 1.3% of the controls. Notably, when all six mutations were validated, only two mutations identified in NTD patients, p.Pro548Leu, p.Arg632His, significantly altered DIVERSIN activity in Wnt signaling assays in a hypomorphic manner.Rare missense mutations in ANKRD6 could affect a balanced reciprocal antagonism between both Wnt pathways in neurulation and act as predisposing factors to NTDs in a subset of patients. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- Germ cell nuclear factor regulates gametogenesis in developing gonads. [Journal Article, Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural]
- PLoS One 2014; 9(8):e103985.
Expression of germ cell nuclear factor (GCNF; Nr6a1), an orphan member of the nuclear receptor gene family of transcription factors, during gastrulation and neurulation is critical for normal embryogenesis in mice. Gcnf represses the expression of the POU-domain transcription factor Oct4 (Pou5f1) during mouse post-implantation development. Although Gcnf expression is not critical for the embryonic segregation of the germ cell lineage, we found that sexually dimorphic expression of Gcnf in germ cells correlates with the expression of pluripotency-associated genes, such as Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog, as well as the early meiotic marker gene Stra8. To elucidate the role of Gcnf during mouse germ cell differentiation, we generated an ex vivo Gcnf-knockdown model in combination with a regulated CreLox mutation of Gcnf. Lack of Gcnf impairs normal spermatogenesis and oogenesis in vivo, as well as the derivation of germ cells from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in vitro. Inactivation of the Gcnf gene in vivo leads to loss of repression of Oct4 expression in both male and female gonads.
- In vivo assessment of guided neural stem cell differentiation in growth factor immobilized chitosan-based hydrogel scaffolds. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Biomaterials 2014 Aug 8.
In this study, we demonstrate that a unique growth factor-biomaterial system can offer spatial control of growth factors with sustained signaling to guide the specific lineage commitment of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) in vivo. First, recombinant fusion proteins incorporating an N-terminal biotin tag and interferon-γ (IFN-γ), platelet derived growth factor-AA (PDGF-AA), or bone morphogenic protein-2 (BMP-2) were immobilized to a methacrylamide chitosan (MAC) based biopolymer via a streptavidin linker to specify NSPC differentiation into neurons, oligodendrocytes, or astrocytes, respectively. MAC was mixed with growth factors (immobilized or adsorbed), acrylated laminin, NSPCs, and crosslinked within chitosan conduits. This system mimics regenerative aspects of the central nervous system ECM, which is largely composed of a crosslinked polysaccharide matrix with cell-adhesive regions, and adds the new functionality of protein sequestration. We demonstrated that these growth factors are maintained at functionally significant levels for 28 d in vitro. In the main study, immobilized treatments were compared to absorbed and control treatments after 28 d in vivo (rat subcutaneous). Masson's Trichrome staining revealed that small collagen capsules formed around the chitosan conduits with an average acceptable thickness of 153.07 ± 6.02 μm for all groups. ED-1 staining showed mild macrophage clustering around the outside of chitosan conduits in all treatments with no macrophage invasion into hydrogel portions. Importantly, NSPC differentiation staining demonstrated that immobilized growth factors induced the majority of cells to differentiate into the desired cell types as compared with adsorbed growth factor treatments and controls by day 28. Interestingly, immobilized IFN-γ resulted in neural rosette-like arrangements and even structures resembling neural tubes, suggesting this treatment can lead to guided dedifferentiation and subsequent neurulation.
- LTR retroelements are intrinsic components of transcriptional networks in frogs. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- BMC Genomics 2014.:626.
LTR retroelements (LTR REs) constitute a major group of transposable elements widely distributed in eukaryotic genomes. Through their own mechanism of retrotranscription LTR REs enrich the genomic landscape by providing genetic variability, thus contributing to genome structure and organization. Nonetheless, transcriptomic activity of LTR REs still remains an obscure domain within cell, developmental, and organism biology.Here we present a first comparative analysis of LTR REs for anuran amphibians based on a full depth coverage transcriptome of the European pool frog, Pelophylax lessonae, the genome of the African clawed frog, Silurana tropicalis (release v7.1), and additional transcriptomes of S. tropicalis and Cyclorana alboguttata. We identified over 1000 copies of LTR REs from all four families (Bel/Pao, Ty1/Copia, Ty3/Gypsy, Retroviridae) in the genome of S. tropicalis and discovered transcripts of several of these elements in all RNA-seq datasets analyzed. Elements of the Ty3/Gypsy family were most active, especially Amn-san elements, which accounted for approximately 0.27% of the genome in Silurana. Some elements exhibited tissue specific expression patterns, for example Hydra1.1 and MuERV-like elements in Pelophylax. In S. tropicalis considerable transcription of LTR REs was observed during embryogenesis as soon as the embryonic genome became activated, i.e. at midblastula transition. In the course of embryonic development the spectrum of transcribed LTR REs changed; during gastrulation and neurulation MuERV-like and SnRV like retroviruses were abundantly transcribed while during organogenesis transcripts of the XEN1 retroviruses became much more active.The differential expression of LTR REs during embryogenesis in concert with their tissue-specificity and the protein domains they encode are evidence for the functional roles these elements play as integrative parts of complex regulatory networks. Our results support the meanwhile widely accepted concept that retroelements are not simple "junk DNA" or "harmful genomic parasites" but essential components of the transcriptomic machinery in vertebrates.