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)
The cardiac homeobox gene Csx/Nkx2.5 lies genetically upstream of multiple genes essential for heart development.
Csx/Nkx2.5 is a vertebrate homeobox gene with a sequence homology to the Drosophila tinman, which is required for the dorsal mesoderm specification. Recently, heterozygous mutations of this gene were found to cause human congenital heart disease (Schott, J.-J., Benson, D. W., Basson, C. T., Pease, W., Silberbach, G. M., Moak, J. P., Maron, B. J., Seidman, C. E. and Seidman, J. G. (1998) Science 281, 108-111). To investigate the functions of Csx/Nkx2.5 in cardiac and extracardiac development in the vertebrate, we have generated and analyzed mutant mice completely null for Csx/Nkx2.5. Homozygous null embryos showed arrest of cardiac development after looping and poor development of blood vessels. Moreover, there were severe defects in vascular formation and hematopoiesis in the mutant yolk sac. Interestingly, TUNEL staining and PCNA staining showed neither enhanced apoptosis nor reduced cell proliferation in the mutant myocardium. In situ hybridization studies demonstrated that, among 20 candidate genes examined, expression of ANF, BNP, MLC2V, N-myc, MEF2C, HAND1 and Msx2 was disturbed in the mutant heart. Moreover, in the heart of adult chimeric mice generated from Csx/Nkx2.5 null ES cells, there were almost no ES cell-derived cardiac myocytes, while there were substantial contributions of Csx /Nkx2.5-deficient cells in other organs. Whole-mount &bgr;-gal staining of chimeric embryos showed that more than 20% contribution of Csx/Nkx2. 5-deficient cells in the heart arrested cardiac development. These results indicate that (1) the complete null mutation of Csx/Nkx2.5 did not abolish initial heart looping, (2) there was no enhanced apoptosis or defective cell cycle entry in Csx/Nkx2.5 null cardiac myocytes, (3) Csx/Nkx2.5 regulates expression of several essential transcription factors in the developing heart, (4) Csx/Nkx2.5 is required for later differentiation of cardiac myocytes, (5) Csx/Nkx2. 5 null cells exert dominant interfering effects on cardiac development, and (6) there were severe defects in yolk sac angiogenesis and hematopoiesis in the Csx/Nkx2.5 null embryos. (+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)
Bcl-2 regulates amplification of caspase activation by cytochrome c.
Caspases, a family of specific proteases, have central roles in apoptosis . Caspase activation in response to diverse apoptotic stimuli involves the relocalisation of cytochrome c from mitochondria to the cytoplasm where it stimulates the proteolytic processing of caspase precursors. Cytochrome c release is controlled by members of the Bcl-2 family of apoptosis regulators  . The anti-apoptotic members Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL may also control caspase activation independently of cytochrome c relocalisation or may inhibit a positive feedback mechanism    . Here, we investigate the role of Bcl-2 family proteins in the regulation of caspase activation using a model cell-free system. We found that Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL set a threshold in the amount of cytochrome c required to activate caspases, even in soluble extracts lacking mitochondria. Addition of dATP (which stimulates the procaspase-processing factor Apaf-1  ) overcame inhibition of caspase activation by Bcl-2, but did not prevent the control of cytochrome c release from mitochondria by Bcl-2. Cytochrome c release was accelerated by active caspase-3 and this positive feedback was negatively regulated by Bcl-2. These results provide evidence for a mechanism to amplify caspase activation that is suppressed at several distinct steps by Bcl-2, even after cytochrome c is released from mitochondria. (+info)
Identification and cloning of xp95, a putative signal transduction protein in Xenopus oocytes.
A 95-kDa protein in Xenopus oocytes, Xp95, was shown to be phosphorylated from the first through the second meiotic divisions during progesterone-induced oocyte maturation. Xp95 was purified and cloned. The Xp95 protein sequence exhibited homology to mouse Rhophilin, budding yeast Bro1, and Aspergillus PalA, all of which are implicated in signal transduction. It also contained three conserved features including seven conserved tyrosines, a phosphorylation consensus sequence for the Src family of tyrosine kinases, and a proline-rich domain near the C terminus that contains multiple SH3 domain-binding motifs. We showed the following: 1) that both Xp95 isolated from Xenopus oocytes and a synthetic peptide containing the Src phosphorylation consensus sequence of Xp95 were phosphorylated in vitro by Src kinase and to a lesser extent by Fyn kinase; 2) Xp95 from Xenopus oocytes or eggs was recognized by an anti-phosphotyrosine antibody, and the relative abundance of tyrosine-phosphorylated Xp95 increased during oocyte maturation; and 3) microinjection of deregulated Src mRNA into Xenopus oocytes increased the abundance of tyrosine-phosphorylated Xp95. These results suggest that Xp95 is an element in a tyrosine kinase signaling pathway that may be involved in progesterone-induced Xenopus oocyte maturation. (+info)
Neuronal differentiation and patterning in Xenopus: the role of cdk5 and a novel activator xp35.2.
Cdk5, a member of the cyclin-dependent kinase family, has been shown to play an important role in development of the central nervous system in mammals when partnered by its activator p35. Here we describe the cloning and characterization of a novel activator of cdk5 in Xenopus, Xp35.2. Xp35.2 is expressed during development initially in the earliest differentiating primary neurons in the neural plate and then later in differentiating neural tissue of the brain. This is in contrast to the previously described Xenopus cdk5 activator Xp35.1 which is expressed over the entire expanse of the neural plate in both proliferating and differentiating cells. Expression of both Xp35.1 and Xp35.2 and activation of cdk5 kinase occur when terminal neural differentiation is induced by neurogenin and neuro D overexpression but not when only early stages of neural differentiation are induced by noggin. Moreover, blocking cdk5 kinase activity specifically results in disruption and reduction of the embryonic eye where cdk5 and its Xp35 activators are expressed. Thus, cdk5/p35 complexes function in aspects of neural differentiation and patterning in the early embryo and particularly in formation of the eye. (+info)
Lack of regulation in the heart forming region of avian embryos.
The ability to regenerate a heart after ablation of cardiogenic mesoderm has been demonstrated in early stage fish and amphibian embryos but this type of regulation of the heart field has not been seen in avians or mammals. The regulative potential of the cardiogenic mesoderm was examined in avian embryos and related to the spatial expression of genes implicated in early cardiogenesis. With the identification of early cardiac regulators such as bmp-2 and nkx-2.5, it is now possible to reconcile classical embryological studies with molecular mechanisms of cardiac lineage determination in vivo. The most anterior lateral embryonic cells were identified as the region that becomes the heart and removal of all or any subset of these cells resulted in the loss of corresponding cardiac structures. In addition, removal of the lateral heart forming mesoderm while leaving the lateral endoderm intact also results in loss of cardiac structures. Thus the medial anterior mesoderm cannot be recruited into the heart lineage in vivo even in the presence of potentially cardiac inducing endoderm. In situ analysis demonstrated that genes involved in early events of cardiogenesis such as bone morphogenetic protein 2 (bmp-2) and nkx-2.5 are expressed coincidentally with the mapped far lateral heart forming region. The activin type IIa receptor (actR-IIa) is a potential mediator of BMP signaling since it is expressed throughout the anterior mesoderm with the highest level of expression occurring in the lateral prospective heart cells. The posterior boundary of actR-IIa is consistent with the posterior boundary of nkx-2.5 expression, supporting a model whereby ActR-IIa is involved in restricting the heart forming region to an anterior subset of lateral cells exposed to BMP-2. Analysis of the cardiogenic potential of the lateral plate mesoderm posterior to nkx-2.5 and actR-IIa expression demonstrated that these cells are not cardiogenic in vitro and that removal of these cells from the embryo does not result in loss of heart tissue in vivo. Thus, the region of the avian embryo that will become the heart is defined medially, laterally, and posteriorly by nkx-2.5 gene expression. Removal of all or part of the nkx-2.5 expressing region results in the loss of corresponding heart structures, demonstrating the inability of the chick embryo to regenerate cardiac tissue in vivo at stages after nkx-2.5 expression is initiated. (+info)
RNA sorting in Xenopus oocytes and embryos.
Cytoplasmic localization of mRNA molecules has emerged as a powerful mechanism for generating spatially restricted gene expression. This process is an important contributor to cell polarity in both somatic cells and oocytes, and can provide the basis for patterning during embryonic development. In vertebrates, this phenomenon is perhaps best documented in the frog, Xenopus laevis, where polarity along the animal-vegetal axis coincides with the localization of numerous mRNA molecules. Research over the last several years has made exciting progress toward understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying cytoplasmic mRNA localization. (+info)