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)
Mechanisms of GDF-5 action during skeletal development.
Mutations in GDF-5, a member of the TGF-beta superfamily, result in the autosomal recessive syndromes brachypod (bp) in mice and Hunter-Thompson and Grebe-type chondrodysplasias in humans. These syndromes are all characterised by the shortening of the appendicular skeleton and loss or abnormal development of some joints. To investigate how GDF-5 controls skeletogenesis, we overexpressed GDF-5 during chick limb development using the retrovirus, RCASBP. This resulted in up to a 37.5% increase in length of the skeletal elements, which was predominantly due to an increase in the number of chondrocytes. By injecting virus at different stages of development, we show that GDF-5 can increase both the size of the early cartilage condensation and the later developing skeletal element. Using in vitro micromass cultures as a model system to study the early steps of chondrogenesis, we show that GDF-5 increases chondrogenesis in a dose-dependent manner. We did not detect changes in proliferation. However, cell suspension cultures showed that GDF-5 might act at these stages by increasing cell adhesion, a critical determinant of early chondrogenesis. In contrast, pulse labelling experiments of GDF-5-infected limbs showed that at later stages of skeletal development GDF-5 can increase proliferation of chondrocytes. Thus, here we show two mechanisms of how GDF-5 may control different stages of skeletogenesis. Finally, our data show that levels of GDF-5 expression/activity are important in controlling the size of skeletal elements and provides a possible explanation for the variation in the severity of skeletal defects resulting from mutations in GDF-5. (+info)
Regulation of neurotrophin-3 expression by epithelial-mesenchymal interactions: the role of Wnt factors.
Neurotrophins regulate survival, axonal growth, and target innervation of sensory and other neurons. Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) is expressed specifically in cells adjacent to extending axons of dorsal root ganglia neurons, and its absence results in loss of most of these neurons before their axons reach their targets. However, axons are not required for NT-3 expression in limbs; instead, local signals from ectoderm induce NT-3 expression in adjacent mesenchyme. Wnt factors expressed in limb ectoderm induce NT-3 in the underlying mesenchyme. Thus, epithelial-mesenchymal interactions mediated by Wnt factors control NT-3 expression and may regulate axonal growth and guidance. (+info)
Fibrocartilage in tendons and ligaments--an adaptation to compressive load.
Where tendons and ligaments are subject to compression, they are frequently fibrocartilaginous. This occurs at 2 principal sites: where tendons (and sometimes ligaments) wrap around bony or fibrous pulleys, and in the region where they attach to bone, i.e. at their entheses. Wrap-around tendons are most characteristic of the limbs and are commonly wider at their point of bony contact so that the pressure is reduced. The most fibrocartilaginous tendons are heavily loaded and permanently bent around their pulleys. There is often pronounced interweaving of collagen fibres that prevents the tendons from splaying apart under compression. The fibrocartilage can be located within fascicles, or in endo- or epitenon (where it may protect blood vessels from compression or allow fascicles to slide). Fibrocartilage cells are commonly packed with intermediate filaments which could be involved in transducing mechanical load. The ECM often contains aggrecan which allows the tendon to imbibe water and withstand compression. Type II collagen may also be present, particularly in tendons that are heavily loaded. Fibrocartilage is a dynamic tissue that disappears when the tendons are rerouted surgically and can be maintained in vitro when discs of tendon are compressed. Finite element analyses provide a good correlation between its distribution and levels of compressive stress, but at some locations fibrocartilage is a sign of pathology. Enthesis fibrocartilage is most typical of tendons or ligaments that attach to the epiphyses of long bones where it may also be accompanied by sesamoid and periosteal fibrocartilages. It is characteristic of sites where the angle of attachment changes throughout the range of joint movement and it reduces wear and tear by dissipating stress concentration at the bony interface. There is a good correlation between the distribution of fibrocartilage within an enthesis and the levels of compressive stress. The complex interlocking between calcified fibrocartilage and bone contributes to the mechanical strength of the enthesis and cartilage-like molecules (e.g. aggrecan and type II collagen) in the ECM contribute to its ability to withstand compression. Pathological changes are common and are known as enthesopathies. (+info)
gas2 is a multifunctional gene involved in the regulation of apoptosis and chondrogenesis in the developing mouse limb.
The growth-arrest-specific 2 (gas2) gene was initially identified on account of its high level of expression in murine fibroblasts under growth arrest conditions, followed by downregulation upon reentry into the cell cycle (Schneider et al., Cell 54, 787-793, 1988). In this study, the expression patterns of the gas2 gene and the Gas2 peptide were established in the developing limbs of 11.5- to 14. 5-day mouse embryos. It was found that gas2 was expressed in the interdigital tissues, the chondrogenic regions, and the myogenic regions. Low-density limb culture and Brdu incorporation assays revealed that gas2 might play an important role in regulating chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation. Moreover, it might play a similar role during limb myogenesis. In addition to chondrogenesis and myogeneis, gas2 is involved in the execution of the apoptotic program in hindlimb interdigital tissues-by acting as a death substrate for caspase enzymes. TUNEL analysis demonstrated that the interdigital tissues underwent apoptosis between 13.5 and 15.5 days. Exactly at these time points, the C-terminal domain of the Gas2 peptide was cleaved as revealed by Western blot analysis. Moreover, pro-caspase-3 (an enzyme that can process Gas2) was cleaved into its active form in the interdigital tissues. The addition of zVAD-fmk, a caspase enzyme inhibitor, to 12.5-day-old hindlimbs maintained in organ culture revealed that the treatment inhibited interdigital cell death. This inhibition correlated with the absence of the Gas2 peptide and pro-caspase-3 cleavage. The data suggest that Gas2 might be involved in the execution of the apoptotic process. (+info)
Conservation of the expression and function of apterous orthologs in Drosophila and mammals.
The Drosophila apterous (ap) gene encodes a protein of the LIM-homeodomain family. Many transcription factors of this class have been conserved during evolution; however, the functional significance of their structural conservation is generally not known. ap is best known for its fundamental role as a dorsal selector gene required for patterning and growth of the wing, but it also has other important functions required for neuronal fasciculation, fertility, and normal viability. We isolated mouse (mLhx2) and human (hLhx2) ap orthologs, and we used transgenic animals and rescue assays to investigate the conservation of the Ap protein during evolution. We found that the human protein LHX2 is able to regulate correctly ap target genes in the fly, causes the same phenotypes as Ap when ectopically produced, and most importantly rescues ap mutant phenotypes as efficiently as the fly protein. In addition, we found striking similarities in the expression patterns of the Drosophila and murine genes. Both mLhx2 and ap are expressed in the respective nerve cords, eyes, olfactory organs, brain, and limbs. These results demonstrate the conservation of Ap protein function across phyla and argue that aspects of its expression pattern have also been conserved from a common ancestor of insects and vertebrates. (+info)
Respecified larval proleg and body wall muscles circulate hemolymph in developing wings of Manduca sexta pupae.
Most larval external muscles in Manduca sexta degenerate at pupation, with the exception of the accessory planta retractor muscles (APRMs) in proleg-bearing abdominal segment 3 and their homologs in non-proleg-bearing abdominal segment 2. In pupae, these APRMs exhibit a rhythmic 'pupal motor pattern' in which all four muscles contract synchronously at approximately 4 s intervals for long bouts, without externally visible movements. On the basis of indirect evidence, it was proposed previously that APRM contractions during the pupal motor pattern circulate hemolymph in the developing wings and legs. This hypothesis was tested in the present study by making simultaneous electromyographic recordings of APRM activity and contact thermographic recordings of hemolymph flow in pupal wings. APRM contractions and hemolymph flow were strictly correlated during the pupal motor pattern. The proposed circulatory mechanism was further supported by the findings that unilateral ablation of APRMs or mechanical uncoupling of the wings from the abdomen essentially abolished wing hemolymph flow on the manipulated side of the body. Rhythmic contractions of intersegmental muscles, which sometimes accompany the pupal motor pattern, had a negligible effect on hemolymph flow. The conversion of larval proleg and body wall muscles to a circulatory function in pupae represents a particularly dramatic example of functional respecification during metamorphosis. (+info)
Chick Barx2b, a marker for myogenic cells also expressed in branchial arches and neural structures.
We have isolated a new chicken gene, cBarx2b, which is related to mBarx2 in sequence, although the expression patterns of the two genes are quite different from one another. The cBarx2b gene is expressed in craniofacial structures, regions of the neural tube, and muscle groups in the limb, neck and cloaca. Perturbation of anterior muscle pattern by application of Sonic Hedgehog protein results in a posteriorization of cBarx2b expression. (+info)