Novel regulation of the homeotic gene Scr associated with a crustacean leg-to-maxilliped appendage transformation.
Homeotic genes are known to be involved in patterning morphological structures along the antero-posterior axis of insects and vertebrates. Because of their important roles in development, changes in the function and expression patterns of homeotic genes may have played a major role in the evolution of different body plans. For example, it has been proposed that during the evolution of several crustacean lineages, changes in the expression patterns of the homeotic genes Ultrabithorax and abdominal-A have played a role in transformation of the anterior thoracic appendages into mouthparts termed maxillipeds. This homeotic-like transformation is recapitulated at the late stages of the direct embryonic development of the crustacean Porcellio scaber (Oniscidea, Isopoda). Interestingly, this morphological change is associated with apparent novelties both in the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of the Porcellio scaber ortholog of the Drosophila homeotic gene, Sex combs reduced (Scr). Specifically, we find that Scr mRNA is present in the second maxillary segment and the first pair of thoracic legs (T1) in early embryos, whereas protein accumulates only in the second maxillae. In later stages, however, high levels of SCR appear in the T1 legs, which correlates temporally with the transformation of these appendages into maxillipeds. Our observations provide further insight into the process of the homeotic leg-to-maxilliped transformation in the evolution of crustaceans and suggest a novel regulatory mechanism for this process in this group of arthropods. (+info
The Drosophila kismet gene is related to chromatin-remodeling factors and is required for both segmentation and segment identity.
The Drosophila kismet gene was identified in a screen for dominant suppressors of Polycomb, a repressor of homeotic genes. Here we show that kismet mutations suppress the Polycomb mutant phenotype by blocking the ectopic transcription of homeotic genes. Loss of zygotic kismet function causes homeotic transformations similar to those associated with loss-of-function mutations in the homeotic genes Sex combs reduced and Abdominal-B. kismet is also required for proper larval body segmentation. Loss of maternal kismet function causes segmentation defects similar to those caused by mutations in the pair-rule gene even-skipped. The kismet gene encodes several large nuclear proteins that are ubiquitously expressed along the anterior-posterior axis. The Kismet proteins contain a domain conserved in the trithorax group protein Brahma and related chromatin-remodeling factors, providing further evidence that alterations in chromatin structure are required to maintain the spatially restricted patterns of homeotic gene transcription. (+info
FGF8 induces formation of an ectopic isthmic organizer and isthmocerebellar development via a repressive effect on Otx2 expression.
Beads containing recombinant FGF8 (FGF8-beads) were implanted in the prospective caudal diencephalon or midbrain of chick embryos at stages 9-12. This induced the neuroepithelium rostral and caudal to the FGF8-bead to form two ectopic, mirror-image midbrains. Furthermore, cells in direct contact with the bead formed an outgrowth that protruded laterally from the neural tube. Tissue within such lateral outgrowths developed proximally into isthmic nuclei and distally into a cerebellum-like structure. These morphogenetic effects were apparently due to FGF8-mediated changes in gene expression in the vicinity of the bead, including a repressive effect on Otx2 and an inductive effect on En1, Fgf8 and Wnt1 expression. The ectopic Fgf8 and Wnt1 expression domains formed nearly complete concentric rings around the FGF8-bead, with the Wnt1 ring outermost. These observations suggest that FGF8 induces the formation of a ring-like ectopic signaling center (organizer) in the lateral wall of the brain, similar to the one that normally encircles the neural tube at the isthmic constriction, which is located at the boundary between the prospective midbrain and hindbrain. This ectopic isthmic organizer apparently sends long-range patterning signals both rostrally and caudally, resulting in the development of the two ectopic midbrains. Interestingly, our data suggest that these inductive signals spread readily in a caudal direction, but are inhibited from spreading rostrally across diencephalic neuromere boundaries. These results provide insights into the mechanism by which FGF8 induces an ectopic organizer and suggest that a negative feedback loop between Fgf8 and Otx2 plays a key role in patterning the midbrain and anterior hindbrain. (+info
Transcriptional repression by the Drosophila giant protein: cis element positioning provides an alternative means of interpreting an effector gradient.
Early developmental patterning of the Drosophila embryo is driven by the activities of a diverse set of maternally and zygotically derived transcription factors, including repressors encoded by gap genes such as Kruppel, knirps, giant and the mesoderm-specific snail. The mechanism of repression by gap transcription factors is not well understood at a molecular level. Initial characterization of these transcription factors suggests that they act as short-range repressors, interfering with the activity of enhancer or promoter elements 50 to 100 bp away. To better understand the molecular mechanism of short-range repression, we have investigated the properties of the Giant gap protein. We tested the ability of endogenous Giant to repress when bound close to the transcriptional initiation site and found that Giant effectively represses a heterologous promoter when binding sites are located at -55 bp with respect to the start of transcription. Consistent with its role as a short-range repressor, as the binding sites are moved to more distal locations, repression is diminished. Rather than exhibiting a sharp 'step-function' drop-off in activity, however, repression is progressively restricted to areas of highest Giant concentration. Less than a two-fold difference in Giant protein concentration is sufficient to determine a change in transcriptional status of a target gene. This effect demonstrates that Giant protein gradients can be differentially interpreted by target promoters, depending on the exact location of the Giant binding sites within the gene. Thus, in addition to binding site affinity and number, cis element positioning within a promoter can affect the response of a gene to a repressor gradient. We also demonstrate that a chimeric Gal4-Giant protein lacking the basic/zipper domain can specifically repress reporter genes, suggesting that the Giant effector domain is an autonomous repression domain. (+info
A Wnt5a pathway underlies outgrowth of multiple structures in the vertebrate embryo.
Morphogenesis depends on the precise control of basic cellular processes such as cell proliferation and differentiation. Wnt5a may regulate these processes since it is expressed in a gradient at the caudal end of the growing embryo during gastrulation, and later in the distal-most aspect of several structures that extend from the body. A loss-of-function mutation of Wnt5a leads to an inability to extend the A-P axis due to a progressive reduction in the size of caudal structures. In the limbs, truncation of the proximal skeleton and absence of distal digits correlates with reduced proliferation of putative progenitor cells within the progress zone. However, expression of progress zone markers, and several genes implicated in distal outgrowth and patterning including Distalless, Hoxd and Fgf family members was not altered. Taken together with the outgrowth defects observed in the developing face, ears and genitals, our data indicates that Wnt5a regulates a pathway common to many structures whose development requires extension from the primary body axis. The reduced number of proliferating cells in both the progress zone and the primitive streak mesoderm suggests that one function of Wnt5a is to regulate the proliferation of progenitor cells. (+info
The homeobox gene Pitx2: mediator of asymmetric left-right signaling in vertebrate heart and gut looping.
Left-right asymmetry in vertebrates is controlled by activities emanating from the left lateral plate. How these signals get transmitted to the forming organs is not known. A candidate mediator in mouse, frog and zebrafish embryos is the homeobox gene Pitx2. It is asymmetrically expressed in the left lateral plate mesoderm, tubular heart and early gut tube. Localized Pitx2 expression continues when these organs undergo asymmetric looping morphogenesis. Ectopic expression of Xnr1 in the right lateral plate induces Pitx2 transcription in Xenopus. Misexpression of Pitx2 affects situs and morphology of organs. These experiments suggest a role for Pitx2 in promoting looping of the linear heart and gut. (+info
Characterization of an amphioxus paired box gene, AmphiPax2/5/8: developmental expression patterns in optic support cells, nephridium, thyroid-like structures and pharyngeal gill slits, but not in the midbrain-hindbrain boundary region.
On the basis of developmental gene expression, the vertebrate central nervous system comprises: a forebrain plus anterior midbrain, a midbrain-hindbrain boundary region (MHB) having organizer properties, and a rhombospinal domain. The vertebrate MHB is characterized by position, by organizer properties and by being the early site of action of Wnt1 and engrailed genes, and of genes of the Pax2/5/8 subfamily. Wada and others (Wada, H., Saiga, H., Satoh, N. and Holland, P. W. H. (1998) Development 125, 1113-1122) suggested that ascidian tunicates have a vertebrate-like MHB on the basis of ascidian Pax258 expression there. In another invertebrate chordate, amphioxus, comparable gene expression evidence for a vertebrate-like MHB is lacking. We, therefore, isolated and characterized AmphiPax2/5/8, the sole member of this subfamily in amphioxus. AmphiPax2/5/8 is initially expressed well back in the rhombospinal domain and not where a MHB would be expected. In contrast, most of the other expression domains of AmphiPax2/5/8 correspond to expression domains of vertebrate Pax2, Pax5 and Pax8 in structures that are probably homologous - support cells of the eye, nephridium, thyroid-like structures and pharyngeal gill slits; although AmphiPax2/5/8 is not transcribed in any structures that could be interpreted as homologues of vertebrate otic placodes or otic vesicles. In sum, the developmental expression of AmphiPax2/5/8 indicates that the amphioxus central nervous system lacks a MHB resembling the vertebrate isthmic region. Additional gene expression data for the developing ascidian and amphioxus nervous systems would help determine whether a MHB is a basal chordate character secondarily lost in amphioxus. The alternative is that the MHB is a vertebrate innovation. (+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