[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: How time is measured is an enduring issue in developmental biology. Classical models of somitogenesis and limb development implicated intrinsic cell cycle clocks, but their existence remains controversial. Here we show that an intrinsic cell cycle clock in polarizing region cells of the chick limb bud times the duration of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) expression, which encodes the morphogen specifying digit pattern across the antero-posterior axis (thumb to little finger). Timing by this clock starts when polarizing region cells fall out of range of retinoic acid signalling. We found that timing of Shh transcription by the cell cycle clock can be reset, thus revealing an embryonic form of self-renewal. In contrast, antero-posterior positional values cannot be reset, suggesting that this may be an important constraint on digit regeneration. Our findings provide the first evidence for an intrinsic cell cycle timer controlling duration and patterning activity of a major embryonic signalling centre.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Apoptosis is an important mechanism for sculpting morphology. However, the molecular cascades that control apoptosis in developing limb buds remain largely unclear. Here, we show that MafB was specifically expressed in apoptotic regions of chick limb buds, and MafB/cFos heterodimers repressed apoptosis, whereas MafB/cJun heterodimers promoted apoptosis for sculpting the shape of the limbs. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing in chick limb buds identified potential target genes and regulatory elements controlled by Maf and Jun. Functional analyses revealed that expression of p63 and p73, key components known to arrest the cell cycle, was directly activated by MafB and cJun. Our data suggest that dimeric combinations of MafB, cFos and cJun in developing chick limb buds control the number of apoptotic cells, and that MafB/cJun heterodimers lead to apoptosis via activation of p63 and p73.
Development 07/2014; 141(14):2885-94. · 6.27 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A gradient of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) plays a major role in specifying the antero-posterior pattern of structures that develop in the distal part of the vertebrate limb, in particular, the antero-posterior pattern of the digits. Classical embryological experiments identified the polarizing region (or zone of polarizing activity, ZPA), a signaling region at the posterior margin of the early chick wing bud and, consistent with a model in which production of a diffusible morphogen specifies antero-posterior positional information, polarizing region signaling was shown to be dose dependent and long range. It is now well established that the vertebrate hedgehog gene, Sonic hedgehog (Shh), which encodes a secreted protein, is expressed in the polarizing region of the chick wing and that Shh signaling has the same characteristics as polarizing region signaling. Shh expression at the posterior of the early limb bud and the mechanism of Shh signal transduction are conserved among vertebrates including mammals. However, it is unlikely that a simple Shh gradient is responsible for digit pattern formation in mammalian limbs and there is still little understanding of how positional information specified by Shh signaling is encoded and translated into digit anatomy. Alterations in Shh signaling underlie some congenital limb abnormalities and also changes in timing and extent of Shh signaling appear to be related to the evolution of morphological diversity of vertebrate limbs. WIREs Dev Biol 2013, 2:275-290. doi: 10.1002/wdev.70 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The precise control of gene expression is critical in embryonic development. Quantitative assays, such as microarrays and RNA sequencing, provide gene expression levels for a large number of genes, but do not contain spatial information. In contrast, in situ methods, such as in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry, provide spatial resolution, but poor quantification and can only reveal the expression of one, or very few genes at a time. Furthermore, the usual methods of documenting the results, by photographing whole mounts or sections, makes it very difficult to assess the three-dimensional (3D) relationships between expressing and non-expressing cells. Optical projection tomography (OPT) can capture the full 3D expression pattern in a whole embryo at a reasonable level of resolution and at moderately high throughput. A large database containing spatio-temporal patterns of expression for the mouse (e-Mouse Atlas Project, EMAP, www.emouseatlas.org) has been created, incorporating 3D information. Like the mouse, the chick is an important model in developmental biology and translational studies. To facilitate comparisons between these important model organisms, we have created a 3D anatomical atlas, accompanied by an anatomical ontology of the chick embryo and a database of gene expression patterns during chick development. This database is publicly available (www.echickatlas.org).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Retinoic acid receptors (RARs), which are involved in retinoic acid signal transduction, are essential for maintaining the differentiated state of epithelial tissues. Mammary glands are skin appendages whose development is initiated through continuous cell-cell interactions between the ectoderm and the adjacent mesenchyme. Considerable progress has been made in elucidating the molecular basis of these interactions in mammary gland formation in mouse embryos, including the network of initiating signals comprising Fgfs, Wnts and Bmps involved in gland positioning and the transcription factors, Tbx3 and Lef1, essential for mammary gland development. Here, we provide evidence that retinoic acid signaling may also be involved in mammary gland development. We documented the expression of gene-encoding enzymes that produce retinoic acid (Raldh2) and enzymes that degrade it (Cyp26a1, Cyp26b1). We also analyzed the expression of RAR-β, a direct transcriptional target of retinoic acid signaling. Raldh2 and RAR-β were expressed in E10-E10.5 mouse embryos in somites adjacent to the flank region where mammary buds 2, 3 and 4 develop. These expression patterns overlapped with that of Fgf10, which is known to be required for mammary gland formation. RAR-β was also expressed in the mammary mesenchyme in E12 mouse embryos; RAR-β protein was expressed in the mammary epithelium and developing fat pad. Retinoic acid levels in organ cultures of E10.5 mouse embryo flanks were manipulated by adding either retinoic acid or citral, a retinoic acid synthesis inhibitor. Reduced retinoic acid synthesis altered the expression of genes involved in retinoic acid homeostasis and also demonstrated that retinoic acid signaling is required for Tbx3 expression, whereas high levels of retinoic acid signaling inhibited Bmp4 expression and repressed Wnt signaling. The results of the experiments using RNAi against Tbx3 and Wnt10b suggested feedback interactions that regulate retinoic acid homeostasis in mammary gland-forming regions. We produced a molecular model for mammary gland initiation that incorporated retinoic acid signaling.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The developing limb is one of the first systems where it was proposed that a signalling gradient is involved in pattern formation. This gradient for specifying positional information across the antero-posterior axis is based on Sonic hedgehog signalling from the polarizing region. Recent evidence suggests that Sonic hedgehog signalling also specifies positional information across the antero-posterior axis by a timing mechanism acting in parallel with graded signalling. The progress zone model for specifying proximo-distal pattern, involving timing to provide cells with positional information, continues to be challenged, and there is further evidence that graded signalling by retinoic acid specifies the proximal part of the limb. Other recent papers present the first evidence that gradients of signalling by Wnt5a and FGFs govern cell behaviour involved in outgrowth and morphogenesis of the developing limb.
Current opinion in cell biology 12/2011; 24(2):181-7. · 14.15 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The proposal that birds descended from theropod dinosaurs with digits 2, 3 and 4 was recently given support by short-term fate maps, suggesting that the chick wing polarizing region-a group that Sonic hedgehog-expressing cells-gives rise to digit 4. Here we show using long-term fate maps that Green fluorescent protein-expressing chick wing polarizing region grafts contribute only to soft tissues along the posterior margin of digit 4, supporting fossil data that birds descended from theropods that had digits 1, 2 and 3. In contrast, digit IV of the chick leg with four digits (I-IV) arises from the polarizing region. To determine how digit identity is specified over time, we inhibited Sonic hedgehog signalling. Fate maps show that polarizing region and adjacent cells are specified in parallel through a series of anterior to posterior digit fates-a process of digit specification that we suggest is involved in patterning all vertebrate limbs with more than three digits.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Specification of digit number and identity is central to digit pattern in vertebrate limbs. The classical talpid(3) chicken mutant has many unpatterned digits together with defects in other regions, depending on hedgehog (Hh) signalling, and exhibits embryonic lethality. The talpid(3) chicken has a mutation in KIAA0586, which encodes a centrosomal protein required for the formation of primary cilia, which are sites of vertebrate Hh signalling. The highly conserved exons 11 and 12 of KIAA0586 are essential to rescue cilia in talpid(3) chicken mutants. We constitutively deleted these two exons to make a talpid3(-/-) mouse. Mutant mouse embryos lack primary cilia and, like talpid(3) chicken embryos, have face and neural tube defects but also defects in left/right asymmetry. Conditional deletion in mouse limb mesenchyme results in polydactyly and in brachydactyly and a failure of subperisoteal bone formation, defects that are attributable to abnormal sonic hedgehog and Indian hedgehog signalling, respectively. Like talpid(3) chicken limbs, the mutant mouse limbs are syndactylous with uneven digit spacing as reflected in altered Raldh2 expression, which is normally associated with interdigital mesenchyme. Both mouse and chicken mutant limb buds are broad and short. talpid3(-/-) mouse cells migrate more slowly than wild-type mouse cells, a change in cell behaviour that possibly contributes to altered limb bud morphogenesis. This genetic mouse model will facilitate further conditional approaches, epistatic experiments and open up investigation into the function of the novel talpid3 gene using the many resources available for mice.
Development 08/2011; 138(15):3261-72. · 6.27 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signalling controls integrated specification of digit pattern and growth in the chick wing but downstream gene networks remain to be unravelled. We analysed 3D expression patterns of genes encoding cell cycle regulators using Optical Projection Tomography. Hierarchical clustering of spatial matrices of gene expression revealed a dorsal layer of the wing bud, in which almost all genes were expressed, and that genes encoding positive cell cycle regulators had similar expression patterns while those of N-myc and CyclinD2 were distinct but closely related. We compared these patterns computationally with those of genes implicated in digit specification and Ptch1, 50 genes in total. Nineteen genes have similar posterior expression to Ptch1, including Hoxd13, Sall1, Hoxd11, and Bmp2, all likely Gli targets in mouse limb, and cell cycle genes, N-myc, CyclinD2. We suggest that these genes contribute to a network integrating digit specification and growth in response to Shh.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hoxd13, Tbx2, Tbx3, Sall1 and Sall3 genes are candidates for encoding antero-posterior positional values in the developing chick wing and specifying digit identity. In order to build up a detailed profile of gene expression patterns in cell lineages that give rise to each of the digits over time, we compared 3 dimensional (3D) expression patterns of these genes during wing development and related them to digit fate maps. 3D gene expression data at stages 21, 24 and 27 spanning early bud to digital plate formation, captured from in situ hybridisation whole mounts using Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) were mapped to reference wing bud models. Grafts of wing bud tissue from GFP chicken embryos were used to fate map regions of the wing bud giving rise to each digit; 3D images of the grafts were captured using OPT and mapped on to the same models. Computational analysis of the combined computerised data revealed that Tbx2 and Tbx3 are expressed in digit 3 and 4 progenitors at all stages, consistent with encoding stable antero-posterior positional values established in the early bud; Hoxd13 and Sall1 expression is more dynamic, being associated with posterior digit 3 and 4 progenitors in the early bud but later becoming associated with anterior digit 2 progenitors in the digital plate. Sox9 expression in digit condensations lies within domains of digit progenitors defined by fate mapping; digit 3 condensations express Hoxd13 and Sall1, digit 4 condensations Hoxd13, Tbx3 and to a lesser extent Tbx2. Sall3 is only transiently expressed in digit 3 progenitors at stage 24 together with Sall1 and Hoxd13; then becomes excluded from the digital plate. These dynamic patterns of expression suggest that these genes may play different roles in digit identity either together or in combination at different stages including the digit condensation stage.
PLoS ONE 04/2011; 6(4):e18661. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Point mutations in the intronic ZRS region of Lmbr1, a limb specific cis-regulatory element of Sonic hedgehog (Shh), are associated with polydactyly in humans, cats, and mice. We and others have recently mapped the dominant preaxial polydactyly (Po) locus in Silkie chickens to a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the ZRS region. Using polymorphisms in the chicken Shh sequence, we confirm that the ZRS region directly regulates Shh expression in the developing limb causing ectopic Shh expression in the anterior leg, prolonged Shh expression in the posterior limb, and allelic imbalance between wt and Slk Shh alleles in heterozygote limbs. Using Silkie legs, we have explored the consequences of increased Shh expression in the posterior leg on the patterning of the toes, and the induction of preaxial polydactyly.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Each vertebrate species displays specific tooth patterns in each quadrant of the jaw: the mouse has one incisor and three molars, which develop at precise locations and at different times. The reason why multiple teeth form in the jaw of vertebrates and the way in which they develop separately from each other have been extensively studied, but the genetic mechanism governing the spatial patterning of teeth still remains to be elucidated. Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is one of the key signaling molecules involved in the spatial patterning of teeth and other ectodermal organs such as hair, vibrissae and feathers. Sostdc1, a secreted inhibitor of the Wnt and Bmp pathways, also regulates the spatial patterning of teeth and hair. Here, by utilizing maternal transfer of 5E1 (an anti-Shh antibody) to mouse embryos through the placenta, we show that Sostdc1 is downstream of Shh signaling and suggest a Wnt-Shh-Sostdc1 negative feedback loop as a pivotal mechanism controlling the spatial patterning of teeth. Furthermore, we propose a new reaction-diffusion model in which Wnt, Shh and Sostdc1 act as the activator, mediator and inhibitor, respectively, and confirm that such interactions can generate the tooth pattern of a wild-type mouse and can explain the various tooth patterns produced experimentally.
Development 03/2011; 138(9):1807-16. · 6.27 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Eggs containing live Japanese quail embryos were imaged using micro-magnetic resonance imaging (μMRI) at 24-h intervals from Day 0 to 8, the period during which the main body axis is being laid down and organogenesis is taking place. Considerable detail of non-embryonic structures such as the latebra was revealed at early stages but the embryo could only be visualized around Day 3. Three-dimensional (3D) changes in embryo length and volume were quantified and also changes in volume in the extra- and non-embryonic components. The embryo increased in length by 43% and nearly trebled in volume between Day 4 and Day 5. Although the amount of yolk remained fairly constant over the first 5 days, the amount of albumen decreases significantly and was replaced by extra-embryonic fluid (EEF). ¹H longitudinal (T₁) and transverse (T₂) relaxation times of different regions within the eggs were determined over the first 6 days of development. The T₂ measurements mirrored the changes in image intensity observed, which can be related to the aqueous protein concentrations. In addition, a comparison of the development of Day 0 to 3 quail embryos exposed to radiofrequency (rf) pulses, 7 T static magnetic fields and magnetic field gradients for an average of 7 h with the development of control embryos did not reveal any gross changes, thus confirming that μMRI is a suitable tool for following the development of live avian embryos over time from the earliest stages.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging 01/2011; 29(1):132-9. · 2.02 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signalling by the polarizing region at the posterior margin of the chick wing bud is pivotal in patterning the digits but apart from a few key downstream genes, such as Hoxd13, which is expressed in the posterior region of the wing that gives rise to the digits, the genes that mediate the response to Shh signalling are not known. To find genes that are co-expressed with Hoxd13 in the posterior of chick wing buds and regulated in the same way, we used microarrays to compare gene expression between anterior and posterior thirds of wing buds from normal chick embryos and from polydactylous talpid³ mutant chick embryos, which have defective Shh signalling due to lack of primary cilia. We identified 1070 differentially expressed gene transcripts, which were then clustered. Two clusters contained genes predominantly expressed in posterior thirds of normal wing buds; in one cluster, genes including Hoxd13, were expressed at high levels in anterior and posterior thirds in talpid³ wing buds, in the other cluster, genes including Ptc1, were expressed at low levels in anterior and posterior thirds in talpid³ wing buds. Expression patterns of genes in these two clusters were validated in normal and talpid³ mutant wing buds by in situ hybridisation and demonstrated to be responsive to application of Shh. Expression of several genes in the Hoxd13 cluster was also shown to be responsive to manipulation of protein kinase A (PKA) activity, thus demonstrating regulation by Gli repression. Genes in the Hoxd13 cluster were then sub-clustered by computational comparison of 3D expression patterns in normal wing buds to produce syn-expression groups. Hoxd13 and Sall1 are syn-expressed in the posterior region of early chick wing buds together with 6 novel genes which are likely to be functionally related and represent secondary targets of Shh signalling. Other groups of syn-expressed genes were also identified, including a group of genes involved in vascularisation.
Mechanisms of development 09/2010; 127(9-12):428-41. · 2.83 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In Drosophila, Iroquois (Irx) genes have various functions including the specification of the identity of wing veins. Vertebrate Iroquois (Irx) genes have been reported to be expressed in the developing digits of mouse limbs. Here we carry out a phylogenetic analysis of vertebrate Irx genes and compare expression in developing limbs of mouse, chick and human embryos and in zebrafish pectoral fin buds. We confirm that the six Irx gene families in vertebrates are well defined and that Clusters A and B are duplicates; in contrast, Irx1 and 3, Irx2 and 5, and Irx4 and 6 are paralogs. All Irx genes in mouse and chick are expressed in developing limbs. Detailed comparison of the expression patterns in mouse and chick shows that expression patterns of genes in the same cluster are generally similar but paralogous genes have different expression patterns. Mouse and chick Irx1 are expressed in digit condensations, whereas mouse and chick Irx6 are expressed interdigitally. The timing of Irx1 expression in individual digits in mouse and chick is different. Irx1 is also expressed in digit condensations in developing human limbs, thus showing conservation of expression of this gene in higher vertebrates. In zebrafish, Irx genes of all but six of the families are expressed in early stage pectoral fin buds but not at later stages, suggesting that these genes are not involved in patterning distal structures in zebrafish fins.
Journal of Anatomy 06/2010; 216(6):683-91. · 2.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Léri-Weill Dyschondrosteosis (LWD) is a dominant skeletal disorder characterized by short stature and distinct bone anomalies. SHOX gene mutations and deletions of regulatory elements downstream of SHOX resulting in haploinsufficiency have been found in patients with LWD. SHOX encodes a homeodomain transcription factor and is known to be expressed in the developing limb. We have now analyzed the regulatory significance of the region upstream of the SHOX gene. By comparative genomic analyses, we identified several conserved non-coding elements, which subsequently were tested in an in ovo enhancer assay in both chicken limb bud and cornea, where SHOX is also expressed. In this assay, we found three enhancers to be active in the developing chicken limb, but none were functional in the developing cornea. A screening of 60 LWD patients with an intact SHOX coding and downstream region did not yield any deletion of the upstream enhancer region. Thus, we speculate that SHOX upstream deletions occur at a lower frequency because of the structural organization of this genomic region and/or that SHOX upstream deletions may cause a phenotype that differs from the one observed in LWD.
European journal of human genetics: EJHG 12/2009; 18(5):527-32. · 3.56 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Gross similarities between the external appearance of the hind limbs of the peroneal muscle atrophy (pma) mouse mutant and congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV), a human disorder historically referred to as 'clubfoot', suggested that this mutant could be a useful model. We used micro-magnetic resonance imaging to visualize the detailed anatomy of the hind limb defect in mutant pma mice and performed 3D comparisons between mutant and wild-type hind limbs. We found that the pma foot demonstrates supination (i.e. adduction and inversion of the mid foot and fore foot together with plantar flexion of the ankle and toes) and that the tibiale and distal tarsals display 3D abnormalities in positioning. The size and shape of the tibia, fibula, tarsal and metatarsal bones are similar to the wild-type. Hypoplasia of the muscles in the antero-lateral (peroneal) compartment was also demonstrated. The resemblance of these features to those seen in CTEV suggests that the pma mouse is a possibly useful model for the human condition. To understand how the observed deformities in the pma mouse hind foot arise during embryonic development, we followed the process of foot rotation in both wild-type and pma mutant mice. Rotation of the hind foot in mouse embryos of wild-type strains (CD-1 and C57/Black) occurs from embryonic day 14.5 onwards with rotation in C57/Black taking longer. In embryos from both strains, rotation of the right hind foot more commonly precedes rotation of the left. In pma mutants, the initiation of rotation is often delayed and rotation is slower and does not reach completion. If the usefulness of the pma mutant as a model is confirmed, then these findings on pma mouse embryos, when extrapolated to humans, would support a long-standing hypothesis that CTEV is due to the failure of completion of the normal process of rotation and angulation, historically known as the 'arrested development hypothesis'.
Journal of Anatomy 11/2009; 216(1):108-20. · 2.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The E2F family of transcriptional regulators activate or repress gene expression during specific phases of the cell cycle and control various processes including proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation. However, little is known about the developmental roles of E2F transcription factors in higher vertebrates. The chick wing is an excellent system for studying these processes because, in addition to having a rich classical embryology, it is increasingly amenable to molecular and genomic approaches. We show that the human and mouse complement of eight E2F transcription factors is conserved in the chicken and that chicken E2F genes are expressed in different spatial and temporal patterns during wing development. We discuss how the expression patterns of the eight chicken E2F transcription factors might be related to important morphogenetic events.