[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The vertebrate head is a complex assemblage of cranial specializations, including the central and peripheral nervous systems, viscero- and neurocranium, musculature and connective tissue. The primary differences that exist between vertebrates and other chordates relate to their craniofacial organization. Therefore, evolution of the head is considered fundamental to the origins of vertebrates (Gans and Northcutt, 1983). The transition from invertebrate to vertebrate chordates was a multistep process, involving the formation and patterning of many new cell types and tissues. The evolution of early vertebrates, such as jawless fish, was accompanied by the emergence of a specialized set of cells, called neural crest cells which have long held a fascination for developmental and evolutionary biologists due to their considerable influence on the complex development of the vertebrate head. Although it has been classically thought that protochordates lacked neural crest counterparts, the recent identification and characterization of amphioxus and ascidian genes homologous to those involved in vertebrate neural crest development challenges this idea. Instead it suggests thatthe neural crest may not be a novel vertebrate cell population, but could have in fact originated from the protochordate dorsal midline epidermis. Consequently, the evolution of the neural crest cells could be reconsidered in terms of the acquisition of new cell properties such as delamination-migration and also multipotency which were key innovations that contributed to craniofacial development. In this review we discuss recent findings concerning the inductive origins of neural crest cells, as well as new insights into the mechanisms patterning this cell population and the subsequent influence this has had on craniofacial evolution.
The International Journal of Developmental Biology 02/2003; 47(7-8):541-53. · 2.61 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pattern formation in the hindbrain is governed by a segmentation process that provides the basis for the organisation of cranial motor nerves. A cascade of transcriptional activators, including the bZIP transcription factor encoded by the kreisler gene controls this segmentation process. In kreisler mutants, r5 fails to form and this correlates with abnormalities in the neuroanatomical organisation of the hindbrain. Studies of Hox gene regulation suggest that kreisler may regulate the identity as well as the formation of r5, but such a role cannot be detected in kreisler mutants since r5 is absent. To gain further insights into the function of kreisler we have generated transgenic mice in which kreisler is ectopically expressed in r3 and for an extended period in r5. In these transgenic mice, the Fgf3, Krox20, Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 genes have ectopic or prolonged expression domains in r3, indicating that it acquires molecular characteristics of r5. Prolonged kreisler expression subsequently causes morphological alterations of r3/r5 that are due to an inhibition of neuronal differentiation and migration from the ventricular zone to form the mantle layer. We find that these alterations in r5 correlate with an arrest of facial branchiomotor neurone migration from r4 into the caudal hindbrain, which is possibly due to the deficiency in the mantle layer through which they normally migrate. We propose that the requirement for the downregulation of segmental kreisler expression prior to neuronal differentiation reflects the stage-specific roles of this gene and its targets.
Development 04/2002; 129(6):1477-85. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the segmented vertebrate hindbrain, the Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 genes are expressed at high relative levels in the rhombomeres (r) 5 and 6, and 5, respectively. The single enhancer elements responsible for these activities have been identified previously and shown to constitute direct targets of the transcription factor kreisler, which is expressed in r5 and r6. Here, we have analysed the contribution of the transcription factor Krox20, present in r3 and r5. Genetic analyses demonstrated that Krox20 is required for activity of the Hoxb3 r5 enhancer, but not of the Hoxa3 r5/6 enhancer. Mutational analysis of the Hoxb3 r5 enhancer, together with ectopic expression experiments, revealed that Krox20 binds to the enhancer and synergizes with kreisler to promote Hoxb3 transcription, restricting enhancer activity to their domain of overlap, r5. These analyses also suggested contributions from an Ets-related factor and from putative factors likely to heterodimerize with kreisler. The integration of multiple independent inputs present in overlapping domains by a single enhancer is likely to constitute a general mechanism for the patterning of subterritories during vertebrate development.
The EMBO Journal 03/2002; 21(3):365-76. · 9.82 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During development of the vertebrate hindbrain, Hox genes play multiple roles in the segmental processes that regulate anteroposterior (AP) patterning. Paralogous Hox genes, such as Hoxa3, Hoxb3 and Hoxd3, generally have very similar patterns of expression, and gene targeting experiments have shown that members of paralogy group 3 can functionally compensate for each other. Hence, distinct functions for individual members of this family may primarily depend upon differences in their expression domains. The earliest domains of expression of the Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 genes in hindbrain rhombomeric (r) segments are transiently regulated by kreisler, a conserved Maf b-Zip protein, but the mechanisms that maintain expression in later stages are unknown. In this study, we have compared the segmental expression and regulation of Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 in mouse and chick embryos to investigate how they are controlled after initial activation. We found that the patterns of Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 expression in r5 and r6 in later stages during mouse and chick hindbrain development were differentially regulated. Hoxa3 expression was maintained in r5 and r6, while Hoxb3 was downregulated. Regulatory comparisons of cis-elements from the chick and mouse Hoxa3 locus in both transgenic mouse and chick embryos have identified a conserved enhancer that mediates the late phase of Hoxa3 expression through a conserved auto/cross-regulatory loop. This block of similarity is also present in the human and horn shark loci, and contains two bipartite Hox/Pbx-binding sites that are necessary for its in vivo activity in the hindbrain. These HOX/PBC sites are positioned near a conserved kreisler-binding site (KrA) that is involved in activating early expression in r5 and r6, but their activity is independent of kreisler. This work demonstrates that separate elements are involved in initiating and maintaining Hoxa3 expression during hindbrain segmentation, and that it is regulated in a manner different from Hoxb3 in later stages. Together, these findings add further strength to the emerging importance of positive auto- and cross-regulatory interactions between Hox genes as a general mechanism for maintaining their correct spatial patterns in the vertebrate nervous system.
Development 10/2001; 128(18):3595-607. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During hindbrain development, segmental regulation of the paralogous Hoxa2 and Hoxb2 genes in rhombomeres (r) 3 and 5 involves Krox20-dependent enhancers that have been conserved during the duplication of the vertebrate Hox clusters from a common ancestor. Examining these evolutionarily related control regions could provide important insight into the degree to which the basic Krox20-dependent mechanisms, cis-regulatory components, and their organization have been conserved. Toward this goal we have performed a detailed functional analysis of a mouse Hoxa2 enhancer capable of directing reporter expression in r3 and r5. The combined activities of five separate cis-regions, in addition to the conserved Krox20 binding sites, are involved in mediating enhancer function. A CTTT (BoxA) motif adjacent to the Krox20 binding sites is important for r3/r5 activity. The BoxA motif is similar to one (Box1) found in the Hoxb2 enhancer and indicates that the close proximity of these Box motifs to Krox20 sites is a common feature of Krox20 targets in vivo. Two other rhombomeric elements (RE1 and RE3) are essential for r3/r5 activity and share common TCT motifs, indicating that they interact with a similar cofactor(s). TCT motifs are also found in the Hoxb2 enhancer, suggesting that they may be another common feature of Krox20-dependent control regions. The two remaining Hoxa2 cis-elements, RE2 and RE4, are not conserved in the Hoxb2 enhancer and define differences in some of components that can contribute to the Krox20-dependent activities of these enhancers. Furthermore, analysis of regulatory activities of these enhancers in a Krox20 mutant background has uncovered differences in their degree of dependence upon Krox20 for segmental expression. Together, this work has revealed a surprising degree of complexity in the number of cis-elements and regulatory components that contribute to segmental expression mediated by Krox20 and sheds light on the diversity and evolution of Krox20 target sites and Hox regulatory elements in vertebrates.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Snail family of zinc-finger transcription factors is involved not only in the development of vertebrate and invertebrate embryos, but also in tumour progression. Following the identification of eight new members, we have analysed the evolutionary history of these genes and found that they constitute a superfamily that groups two independent families, Snail and Scratch. We propose that the duplication of an ancestral gene at the time of the metazoan radiation (1000-500 Myr ago) gave rise to Snail and Scratch, and that independent duplications in protostomes and deuterostomes led to the present situation. We discuss the implications of the distinct duplication events on the acquisition of new functions.
Trends in Genetics 05/2001; 17(4):178-81. · 9.77 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: dreher is a spontaneous mouse mutation in which adult animals display a complex phenotype associated with hearing loss, neurological, pigmentation and skeletal abnormalities. During early embryogenesis, the neural tube of dreher mutants is abnormally shaped in the region of the rhomboencephalon, due to problems in the formation of a proper roof plate over the otic hindbrain. We have studied the expression of Hox/lacZ transgenic mouse strains in the dreher background and shown that primary segmentation of the neural tube is not altered in these mutants, although correct morphogenesis is affected resulting in misshapen rhombomeres. Neural crest derivatives from rhombomere 6, such as the glossopharyngeal ganglion, are defective, and the dorsal neural tube marker Wnt1 is absent from this segment. Selected trunk neural crest populations are also altered, as there is a lack of pigmentation in the thoracic region of mutant mice. Skeletal defects include abnormal cranial bones of neural crest origin, and improper fusion of the dorsal aspects of cervical and thoracic vertebrae. Taken together, the gene affected in the dreher mutant is responsible for correct patterning of the dorsal-most cell types of the neural tube, that is, the neural crest and the roof plate, in the hindbrain region. Axial skeletal defects could reflect inductive influence of the dorsal neural tube on proper fusion of the neural arches. It is possible that a common precursor population for both neural crest and roof plate is the cellular target of the dreher mutation.
Mechanisms of Development 07/2000; 94(1-2):147-56. · 2.38 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hox genes play a fundamental role in the establishment of chordate body plan, especially in the anteroposterior patterning of the nervous system. Particularly interesting are the anterior groups of Hox genes (Hox1-Hox4) since their expression is coupled to the control of regional identity in the anterior regions of the nervous system, where the highest structural diversity is observed. Ascidians, among chordates, are considered a good model to investigate evolution of Hox gene, organisation, regulation and function. We report here the cloning and the expression pattern of CiHox3, a Ciona intestinalis anterior Hox gene homologous to the paralogy group 3 genes. In situ hybridization at the larva stage revealed that CiHox3 expression was restricted to the visceral ganglion of the central nervous system. The presence of a sharp posterior boundary and the absence of transcript in mesodermal tissues are distinctive features of CiHox3 expression when compared to the paralogy group 3 in other chordates. We have investigated the regulatory elements underlying CiHox3 neural-specific expression and, using transgenic analysis, we were able to isolate an 80 bp enhancer responsible of CiHox3 activation in the central nervous system (CNS). A comparative study between mouse and Ciona Hox3 promoters demonstrated that divergent mechanisms are involved in the regulation of these genes in vertebrates and ascidians.
Development 12/1999; 126(21):4737-48. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mouse kreisler gene is expressed in rhombomeres (r) 5 and 6 during neural development and kreisler mutants have patterning defects in the hindbrain that are not fully understood. Here we analyzed this phenotype with a combination of genetic, molecular, and cellular marking techniques. Using Hox/lacZ transgenic mice as reporter lines and by analyzing Eph/ephrin expression, we have found that while r5 fails to form in these mice, r6 is present. This shows that kreisler has an early role in the formation of r5. We also observed patterning defects in r3 and r4 that are outside the normal domain of kreisler expression. In both heterozygous and homozygous kreisler embryos some r5 markers are induced in r3, suggesting that there is a partial change in r3 identity that is not dependent upon the loss of r5. To investigate the cellular character of r6 in kreisler embryos we performed heterotopic grafting experiments in the mouse hindbrain to monitor its mixing properties. Control experiments revealed that cells from even- or odd-numbered segments only mixed freely with themselves, but not with cells of opposite character. Transposition of cells from the r6 territory of kreisler mutants reveals that they adopt mature r6 characteristics, as they freely mix only with cells from even-numbered rhombomeres. Analysis of Phox2b expression shows that some aspects of later neurogenesis in r6 are altered, which may be associated with the additional roles of kreisler in regulating segmental identity. Together these results suggest that the formation of r6 has not been affected in kreisler mutants. This analysis has revealed phenotypic and mechanistic differences between kreisler and its zebrafish equivalent valentino. While valentino is believed to subdivide preexisting segmental units, in the mouse kreisler specifies a particular segment. The formation of r6 independent of r5 argues against a role of kreisler in prorhombomeric segmentation of the mouse hindbrain. We conclude that the mouse kreisler gene regulates multiple steps in segmental patterning involving both the formation of segments and their A-P identity.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hoxa2 is expressed in cranial neural crest cells that migrate into the second branchial arch and is essential for proper patterning of neural-crest-derived structures in this region. We have used transgenic analysis to begin to address the regulatory mechanisms which underlie neural-crest-specific expression of Hoxa2. By performing a deletion analysis on an enhancer from the Hoxa2 gene that is capable of mediating expression in neural crest cells in a manner similar to the endogenous gene, we demonstrated that multiple cis-acting elements are required for neural-crest-specific activity. One of these elements consists of a sequence that binds to the three transcription factor AP-2 family members. Mutation or deletion of this site in the Hoxa2 enhancer abrogates reporter expression in cranial neural crest cells but not in the hindbrain. In both cell culture co-transfection assays and transgenic embryos AP-2 family members are able to trans-activate reporter expression, showing that this enhancer functions as an AP-2-responsive element in vivo. Reporter expression is not abolished in an AP-2(alpha) null mutant embryos, suggesting redundancy with other AP-2 family members for activation of the Hoxa2 enhancer. Other cis-elements identified in this study critical for neural-crest-specific expression include an element that influences levels of expression and a conserved sequence, which when multimerized directs expression in a broad subset of neural crest cells. These elements work together to co-ordinate and restrict neural crest expression to the second branchial arch and more posterior regions. Our findings have identified the cis-components that allow Hoxa2 to be regulated independently in rhombomeres and cranial neural crest cells.
Development 05/1999; 126(7):1483-94. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During anteroposterior patterning of the developing hindbrain, the anterior expression of 3' Hox genes maps to distinct rhombomeric boundaries and, in many cases, is upregulated in specific segments. Paralogous genes frequently have similar anterior boundaries of expression but it is not known if these are controlled by common mechanisms. The expression of the paralogous Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 genes extends from the posterior spinal cord up to the rhombomere (r) 4/5 boundary and both genes are upregulated specifically in r5. However, in this study, we have found that Hoxa3 expression is also upregulated in r6, showing that there are differences in segmental expression between paralogues. We have used transgenic analysis to investigate the mechanisms underlying the pattern of segmental expression of Hoxa3. We found that the intergenic region between Hoxa3 and Hoxa4 contains several enhancers, which summed together mediate a pattern of expression closely resembling that of the endogenous Hoxa3 gene. One enhancer specifically directs expression in r5 and r6, in a manner that reflects the upregulation of the endogenous gene in these segments. Deletion analysis localized this activity to a 600 bp fragment that was found to contain a single high-affinity binding site for the Maf bZIP protein Krml1, encoded by the kreisler gene. This site is necessary for enhancer activity and when multimerized it is sufficient to direct a kreisler-like pattern in transgenic embryos. Furthermore the r5/r6 enhancer activity is dependent upon endogenous kreisler and is activated by ectopic kreisler expression. This demonstrates that Hoxa3, along with its paralog Hoxb3, is a direct target of kreisler in the mouse hindbrain. Comparisons between the Krml1-binding sites in the Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 enhancers reveal that there are differences in both the number of binding sites and way that kreisler activity is integrated and restricted by these two control regions. Analysis of the individual sites revealed that they have different requirements for mediating r5/r6 and dorsal roof plate expression. Therefore, the restriction of Hoxb3 to r5 and Hoxa3 to r5 and r6, together with expression patterns of Hoxb3 in other vertebrate species suggests that these regulatory elements have a common origin but have later diverged during vertebrate evolution.
Development 03/1999; 126(4):759-69. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hox genes control regional identity during segmentation of the vertebrate hindbrain into rhombomeres. Here we use transgenic analysis to investigate the upstream mechanisms for regulation of Hoxb-3 in rhombomere(r)5. We identified enhancers from the mouse and chick genes sufficient for r5-restricted expression. Sequence comparisons revealed two blocks of similarity (of 19 and 45 base pairs), which each contain in vitro binding sites for the kreisler protein (Kmrl1), a Maf/b-Zip protein expressed in r5 and r6 (ref. 4). Both sites are required for r5 activity, suggesting that Hoxb-3 is a direct target of kreisler. Multimers of the 19-base-pair (bp) block recreate a Krml1-like pattern in r5/r6, but the 45-bp block mediates expression only in r5. Therefore elements within the 45-bp block restrict the response to Krml1. We identified additional sequences that contain an Ets-related activation site, required for both the activation and restriction to r5. These studies demonstrate that Krml1 directly activates expression of Hoxb-3 in r5 in combination with an Ets-related activation site, and suggest that kreisler plays a primary role in regulating segmental identity through Hox genes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Transient segmentation in the hindbrain is a fundamental morphogenetic phenomenon in the vertebrate embryo, and the restricted expression of subsets of Hox genes in the developing rhombomeric units and their derivatives is linked with regional specification. Here we show that patterning of the vertebrate hindbrain involves the direct upregulation of the chicken and pufferfish group 2 paralogous genes, Hoxb-2 and Hoxa-2, in rhombomeres 3 and 5 (r3 and r5) by the zinc finger gene Krox-20. We identified evolutionarily conserved r3/r5 enhancers that contain high affinity Krox-20. binding sites capable of mediating transactivation by Krox-20. In addition to conservation of binding sites critical for Krox-20 activity in the chicken Hoxa-2 and pufferfish Hoxb-2 genes, the r3/r5 enhancers are also characterized by the presence of a number of identical motifs likely to be involved in cooperative interactions with Krox-20 during the process of hindbrain patterning in vertebrates.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/1996; 93(18):9339-45. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Transposon Tn1000 has been adapted to deliver novel DNA sequences for manipulating recombinant DNA. The transposition procedure for these "tagged" Tn1000s is simple and applicable to most plasmids in current use. For yeast molecular biology, tagged Tn1000s introduce a variety of yeast selective markers and replication origins into plasmids and cosmids. In addition, the beta-globin minimal promoter and lacZ gene of Tn(beta)lac serve as a mobile reporter of eukaryotic enhancer activity. In this paper, Tn(beta)lac was used to localize a mouse HoxB-complex enhancer in transgenic mice. Other tagged transposons create Gal4 DNA-binding-domain fusions, in either Escherichia coli or yeast plasmids, for use in one- and two-hybrid tests of transcriptional activation and protein-protein interaction, respectively. With such fusions, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Swi6 G1/S-phase transcription factor and the Xenopus laevis Pintallavis developmental regulator are shown to activate transcription. Furthermore, the same transposon insertions also facilitated mapping of the Swi6 and Pintallavis domains responsible for transcriptional activation. Thus, as well as introducing novel sequences, tagged transposons share the numerous other applications of transposition such as producing insertional mutations, creating deletion series, or serving as mobile primer sites for DNA sequencing.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/1996; 93(7):2801-6. · 9.74 Impact Factor