Regulation of chamber-specific gene expression in the developing heart by Irx4.
The vertebrate heart consists of two types of chambers, the atria and the ventricles, which differ in their contractile and electrophysiological properties. Little is known of the molecular mechanisms by which these chambers are specified during embryogenesis. Here a chicken iroquois-related homeobox gene, Irx4, was identified that has a ventricle-restricted expression pattern at all stages of heart development. Irx4 protein was shown to regulate the chamber-specific expression of myosin isoforms by activating the expression of the ventricle myosin heavy chain-1 (VMHC1) and suppressing the expression of the atrial myosin heavy chain-1 (AMHC1) in the ventricles. Thus, Irx4 may play a critical role in establishing chamber-specific gene expression in the developing heart. (+info
MENT, a heterochromatin protein that mediates higher order chromatin folding, is a new serpin family member.
Terminal cell differentiation is correlated with the extensive sequestering of previously active genes into compact transcriptionally inert heterochromatin. In vertebrate blood cells, these changes can be traced to the accumulation of a developmentally regulated heterochromatin protein, MENT. Cryoelectron microscopy of chicken granulocyte chromatin, which is highly enriched with MENT, reveals exceptionally compact polynucleosomes, which maintain a level of higher order folding above that imposed by linker histones. The amino acid sequence of MENT reveals a close structural relationship with serpins, a large family of proteins known for their ability to undergo dramatic conformational transitions. Conservation of the "hinge region" consensus in MENT indicates that this ability is retained by the protein. MENT is distinguished from the other serpins by being a basic protein, containing several positively charged surface clusters, which are likely to be involved in ionic interactions with DNA. One of the positively charged domains bears a significant similarity to the chromatin binding region of nuclear lamina proteins and with the A.T-rich DNA-binding motif, which may account for the targeting of MENT to peripheral heterochromatin. MENT ectopically expressed in a mammalian cell line is transported into nuclei and is associated with intranuclear foci of condensed chromatin. (+info
Role of the Bicoid-related homeodomain factor Pitx1 in specifying hindlimb morphogenesis and pituitary development.
Pitx1 is a Bicoid-related homeodomain factor that exhibits preferential expression in the hindlimb, as well as expression in the developing anterior pituitary gland and first branchial arch. Here, we report that Pitx1 gene-deleted mice exhibit striking abnormalities in morphogenesis and growth of the hindlimb, resulting in a limb that exhibits structural changes in tibia and fibula as well as patterning alterations in patella and proximal tarsus, to more closely resemble the corresponding forelimb structures. Deletion of the Pitx1 locus results in decreased distal expression of the hindlimb-specific marker, the T-box factor, Tbx4. On the basis of similar expression patterns in chick, targeted misexpression of chick Pitx1 in the developing wing bud causes the resulting limb to assume altered digit number and morphogenesis, with Tbx4 induction. We hypothesize that Pitx1 serves to critically modulate morphogenesis, growth, and potential patterning of a specific hindlimb region, serving as a component of the morphological and growth distinctions in forelimb and hindlimb identity. Pitx1 gene-deleted mice also exhibit reciprocal abnormalities of two ventral and one dorsal anterior pituitary cell types, presumably on the basis of its synergistic functions with other transcription factors, and defects in the derivatives of the first branchial arch, including cleft palate, suggesting a proliferative defect in these organs analogous to that observed in the hindlimb. (+info
Dynamic expression of lunatic fringe suggests a link between notch signaling and an autonomous cellular oscillator driving somite segmentation.
The metameric organization of the vertebrate trunk is a characteristic feature of all members of this phylum. The origin of this metamerism can be traced to the division of paraxial mesoderm into individual units, termed somites, during embryonic development. Despite the identification of somites as the first overt sign of segmentation in vertebrates well over 100 years ago, the mechanism(s) underlying somite formation remain poorly understood. Recently, however, several genes have been identified which play prominent roles in orchestrating segmentation, including the novel secreted factor lunatic fringe. To gain further insight into the mechanism by which lunatic fringe controls somite development, we have conducted a thorough analysis of lunatic fringe expression in the unsegmented paraxial mesoderm of chick embryos. Here we report that lunatic fringe is expressed predominantly in somite -II, where somite I corresponds to the most recently formed somite and somite -I corresponds to the group of cells which will form the next somite. In addition, we show that lunatic fringe is expressed in a highly dynamic manner in the chick segmental plate prior to somite formation and that lunatic fringe expression cycles autonomously with a periodicity of somite formation. Moreover, the murine ortholog of lunatic fringe undergoes a similar cycling expression pattern in the presomitic mesoderm of somite stage mouse embryos. The demonstration of a dynamic periodic expression pattern suggests that lunatic fringe may function to integrate notch signaling to a cellular oscillator controlling somite segmentation. (+info
Characterization of prethymic progenitors within the chicken embryo.
The thymic primordium in both birds and mammals is first colonized by cells emerging from the intra-embryonic mesenchyme but the nature of these precursors is poorly understood. We demonstrate here an early embryonic day 7 prethymic population with T lymphoid potential. Our work is a phenotypic analysis of, to date, the earliest embryonic prethymic progenitors arising in the avian para-aortic area during ontogeny. The phenotype of these cells, expressing the cell surface molecules alpha2beta1 integrin, c-kit, thrombomucin/MEP21, HEMCAM and chL12, reflects functional properties required for cell adhesion, migration and growth factor responsiveness. Importantly, the presence of these antigens was found to correlate with the recolonization of the recipient thymus following intrathymic cell transfers. These intra-embryonic cells were also found to express the Ikaros transcription factor, the molecular function of which is considered to be prerequisite for embryonic lymphoid development. (+info
Expression of Zkrml2, a homologue of the Krml1/val segmentation gene, during embryonic patterning of the zebrafish (Danio rerio).
We have identified Zkrml2, a novel homologue of the segmentation gene Krml/val in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Zkrml2 shows 72% and 92% identity in its basic leucine zipper domain with mouse Krml1 and zebrafish val, respectively. Zkrml2 is expressed coincident with MyoD throughout the somites starting at the three somite stage, becomes restricted to the dermomyotome, and subsequently disappears. Transient expression is also detected in the reticulospinal and oculomotor neurons. Zkrml2 maps to the Oregon linkage group 11 (Boston Linkage group 14) with no mapped zebrafish mutations nearby. (+info
Role of Pitx1 upstream of Tbx4 in specification of hindlimb identity.
In spite of recent breakthroughs in understanding limb patterning, the genetic factors determining the differences between the forelimb and the hindlimb have not been understood. The genes Pitx1 and Tbx4 encode transcription factors that are expressed throughout the developing hindlimb but not forelimb buds. Misexpression of Pitx1 in the chick wing bud induced distal expression of Tbx4, as well as HoxC10 and HoxC11, which are normally restricted to hindlimb expression domains. Wing buds in which Pitx1 was misexpressed developed into limbs with some morphological characteristics of hindlimbs: the flexure was altered to that normally observed in legs, the digits were more toe-like in their relative size and shape, and the muscle pattern was transformed to that of a leg. (+info
Production and characterization of a soluble, active form of Tva, the subgroup A avian sarcoma and leukosis virus receptor.
The receptor for the subgroup A avian sarcoma and leukosis viruses [ASLV(A)] is the cellular glycoprotein Tva. A soluble form of Tva, sTva, was produced and purified with a baculovirus expression system. Using this system, 7 to 10 mg of purified sTva per liter of cultured Sf9 cells was obtained. Characterization of the carbohydrate modification of sTva revealed that the three N glycosylation sites in sTva were differentially utilized; however, the O glycosylation common to Tva produced in mammalian and avian cells was not observed. Purified sTva demonstrates significant biological activity, specifically blocking infection of avian cells by ASLV(A) with a 90% inhibitory concentration of approximately 25 pM. A quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, developed to assess the binding of sTva to ASLV envelope glycoprotein, demonstrates that sTva has a high affinity for EnvA, with an apparent dissociation constant of approximately 0.3 nM. Once they are bound, a very stable complex is formed between EnvA and sTva, with an estimated complex half-life of 6 h. The soluble receptor protein described here represents a valuable tool for analysis of the receptor-envelope glycoprotein interaction and for structural analysis of Tva. (+info