The surface ectoderm is essential for nephric duct formation in intermediate mesoderm.
The nephric duct is the first epithelial tubule to differentiate from intermediate mesoderm that is essential for all further urogenital development. In this study we identify the domain of intermediate mesoderm that gives rise to the nephric duct and demonstrate that the surface ectoderm is required for its differentiation. Removal of the surface ectoderm resulted in decreased levels of Sim-1 and Pax-2 mRNA expression in mesenchymal nephric duct progenitors, and caused inhibition of nephric duct formation and subsequent kidney development. The surface ectoderm expresses BMP-4 and we show that it is required for the maintenance of high-level BMP-4 expression in lateral plate mesoderm. Addition of a BMP-4-coated bead to embryos lacking the surface ectoderm restored normal levels of Sim-1 and Pax-2 mRNA expression in nephric duct progenitors, nephric duct formation and the initiation of nephrogenesis. Thus, BMP-4 signaling can substitute for the surface ectoderm in supporting nephric duct morphogenesis. Collectively, these data suggest that inductive interactions between the surface ectoderm, lateral mesoderm and intermediate mesoderm are essential for nephric duct formation and the initiation of urogenital development. (+info)
Separation of shoot and floral identity in Arabidopsis.
The overall morphology of an Arabidopsis plant depends on the behaviour of its meristems. Meristems derived from the shoot apex can develop into either shoots or flowers. The distinction between these alternative fates requires separation between the function of floral meristem identity genes and the function of an antagonistic group of genes, which includes TERMINAL FLOWER 1. We show that the activities of these genes are restricted to separate domains of the shoot apex by different mechanisms. Meristem identity genes, such as LEAFY, APETALA 1 and CAULIFLOWER, prevent TERMINAL FLOWER 1 transcription in floral meristems on the apex periphery. TERMINAL FLOWER 1, in turn, can inhibit the activity of meristem identity genes at the centre of the shoot apex in two ways; first by delaying their upregulation, and second, by preventing the meristem from responding to LEAFY or APETALA 1. We suggest that the wild-type pattern of TERMINAL FLOWER 1 and floral meristem identity gene expression depends on the relative timing of their upregulation. (+info)
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)
Apontic binds the translational repressor Bruno and is implicated in regulation of oskar mRNA translation.
The product of the oskar gene directs posterior patterning in the Drosophila oocyte, where it must be deployed specifically at the posterior pole. Proper expression relies on the coordinated localization and translational control of the oskar mRNA. Translational repression prior to localization of the transcript is mediated, in part, by the Bruno protein, which binds to discrete sites in the 3' untranslated region of the oskar mRNA. To begin to understand how Bruno acts in translational repression, we performed a yeast two-hybrid screen to identify Bruno-interacting proteins. One interactor, described here, is the product of the apontic gene. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments lend biochemical support to the idea that Bruno and Apontic proteins physically interact in Drosophila. Genetic experiments using mutants defective in apontic and bruno reveal a functional interaction between these genes. Given this interaction, Apontic is likely to act together with Bruno in translational repression of oskar mRNA. Interestingly, Apontic, like Bruno, is an RNA-binding protein and specifically binds certain regions of the oskar mRNA 3' untranslated region. (+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 Drosophila doublesex-related gene, terra, is involved in somitogenesis in vertebrates.
The Drosophila doublesex (dsx) gene encodes a transcription factor that mediates sex determination. We describe the characterization of a novel zebrafish zinc-finger gene, terra, which contains a DNA binding domain similar to that of the Drosophila dsx gene. However, unlike dsx, terra is transiently expressed in the presomitic mesoderm and newly formed somites. Expression of terra in presomitic mesoderm is restricted to cells that lack expression of MyoD. In vivo, terra expression is reduced by hedgehog but enhanced by BMP signals. Overexpression of terra induces rapid apoptosis both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that a tight regulation of terra expression is required during embryogenesis. Terra has both human and mouse homologs and is specifically expressed in mouse somites. Taken together, our findings suggest that terra is a highly conserved protein that plays specific roles in early somitogenesis of vertebrates. (+info)
Requirement of a novel gene, Xin, in cardiac morphogenesis.
A novel gene, Xin, from chick (cXin) and mouse (mXin) embryonic hearts, may be required for cardiac morphogenesis and looping. Both cloned cDNAs have a single open reading frame, encoding proteins with 2,562 and 1,677 amino acids for cXin and mXin, respectively. The derived amino acid sequences share 46% similarity. The overall domain structures of the predicted cXin and mXin proteins, including proline-rich regions, 16 amino acid repeats, DNA-binding domains, SH3-binding motifs and nuclear localization signals, are highly conserved. Northern blot analyses detect a single message of 8.9 and 5.8 kilo base (kb) from both cardiac and skeletal muscle of chick and mouse, respectively. In situ hybridization reveals that the cXin gene is specifically expressed in cardiac progenitor cells of chick embryos as early as stage 8, prior to heart tube formation. cXin continues to be expressed in the myocardium of developing hearts. By stage 15, cXin expression is also detected in the myotomes of developing somites. Immunofluorescence microscopy reveals that the mXin protein is colocalized with N-cadherin and connexin-43 in the intercalated discs of adult mouse hearts. Incubation of stage 6 chick embryos with cXin antisense oligonucleotides results in abnormal cardiac morphogenesis and an alteration of cardiac looping. The myocardium of the affected hearts becomes thickened and tends to form multiple invaginations into the heart cavity. This abnormal cellular process may account in part for the abnormal looping. cXin expression can be induced by bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) in explants of anterior medial mesoendoderm from stage 6 chick embryos, a tissue that is normally non-cardiogenic. This induction occurs following the BMP-mediated induction of two cardiac-restricted transcription factors, Nkx2.5 and MEF2C. Furthermore, either MEF2C or Nkx2.5 can transactivate a luciferase reporter driven by the mXin promoter in mouse fibroblasts. These results suggest that Xin may participate in a BMP-Nkx2.5-MEF2C pathway to control cardiac morphogenesis and looping. (+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)