[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Patterning the neuroectoderm along the anterior-posterior (AP) axis is a critical event in the early development of deuterostome embryos. However, the mechanisms that regulate the specification and patterning of the neuroectoderm are incompletely understood. Remarkably, the anterior neuroectoderm (ANE) of the deuterostome sea urchin embryo expresses many of the same transcription factors and secreted modulators of Wnt signaling, as does the early vertebrate ANE (forebrain/eye field). Moreover, as is the case in vertebrate embryos, confining the ANE to the anterior end of the embryo requires a Wnt/β-catenin-dependent signaling mechanism. Here we use morpholino- or dominant negative-mediated interference to demonstrate that the early sea urchin embryo integrates information not only from Wnt/β-catenin but also from Wnt/Fzl5/8-JNK and Fzl1/2/7-PKC pathways to provide precise spatiotemporal control of neuroectoderm patterning along its AP axis. Together, through the Wnt1 and Wnt8 ligands, they orchestrate a progressive posterior-to-anterior wave of re-specification that restricts the initial, ubiquitous, maternally specified, ANE regulatory state to the most anterior blastomeres. There, the Wnt receptor antagonist, Dkk1, protects this state through a negative feedback mechanism. Because these different Wnt pathways converge on the same cell fate specification process, our data suggest they may function as integrated components of an interactive Wnt signaling network. Our findings provide strong support for the idea that the sea urchin ANE regulatory state and the mechanisms that position and define its borders represent an ancient regulatory patterning system that was present in the common echinoderm/vertebrate ancestor.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Wnt and Nodal signaling pathways are required for initial patterning of cell fates along anterior-posterior (AP) and dorsal-ventral (DV) axes, respectively, of sea urchin embryos during cleavage and early blastula stages. These mechanisms are connected because expression of nodal depends on early Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Here, we show that an important subsequent function of Wnt signaling is to control the shape of the nodal expression domain and maintain correct specification of different cell types along the axes of the embryo. In the absence of Wnt1, the posterior-ventral region of the embryo is severely altered during early gastrulation. Strikingly, at this time, nodal and its downstream target genes gsc and bra are expressed ectopically, extending posteriorly to the blastopore. They override the initial specification of posterior-ventral ectoderm and endoderm fates, eliminating the ventral contribution to the gut and displacing the ciliary band dorsally towards, and occasionally beyond, the blastopore. Consequently, in Wnt1 morphants, the blastopore is located at the border of the re-specified posterior-ventral oral ectoderm and by larval stages it is in the same plane near the stomodeum on the ventral side. In normal embryos, a Nodal-dependent process downregulates wnt1 expression in dorsal posterior cells during early gastrulation, focusing Wnt1 signaling to the posterior-ventral region where it suppresses nodal expression. These subsequent interactions between Wnt and Nodal signaling are thus mutually antagonistic, each limiting the range of the other's activity, in order to maintain and stabilize the body plan initially established by those same signaling pathways in the early embryo.
Development 03/2012; 139(9):1662-9. · 6.60 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The segregation of embryonic endomesoderm into separate endoderm and mesoderm fates is not well understood in deuterostomes. Using sea urchin embryos, we showed that Notch signaling initiates segregation of the endomesoderm precursor field by inhibiting expression of a key endoderm transcription factor in presumptive mesoderm. The regulatory circuit activated by this transcription factor subsequently maintains transcription of a canonical Wnt (cWnt) ligand only in endoderm precursors. This cWnt ligand reinforces the endoderm state, amplifying the distinction between emerging endoderm and mesoderm. Before gastrulation, Notch-dependent nuclear export of an essential β-catenin transcriptional coactivator from mesoderm renders it refractory to cWnt signals, insulating it against an endoderm fate. Thus, we report that endomesoderm segregation is a progressive process, requiring a succession of regulatory interactions between cWnt and Notch signaling.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent studies of the sea urchin embryo have elucidated the mechanisms that localize and pattern its nervous system. These studies have revealed the presence of two overlapping regions of neurogenic potential at the beginning of embryogenesis, each of which becomes progressively restricted by separate, yet linked, signals, including Wnt and subsequently Nodal and BMP. These signals act to specify and localize the embryonic neural fields - the anterior neuroectoderm and the more posterior ciliary band neuroectoderm - during development. Here, we review these conserved nervous system patterning signals and consider how the relationships between them might have changed during deuterostome evolution.
Development 09/2011; 138(17):3613-23. · 6.60 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although it is well established that neural cells are ectodermal derivatives in bilaterian animals, here we report the surprising discovery that some of the pharyngeal neurons of sea urchin embryos develop de novo from the endoderm. The appearance of these neurons is independent of mouth formation, in which the stomodeal ectoderm joins the foregut. The neurons do not derive from migration of ectoderm cells to the foregut, as shown by lineage tracing with the photoactivatable protein KikGR. Their specification and development depend on expression of Nkx3-2, which in turn depends on Six3, both of which are expressed in the foregut lineage. SoxB1, which is closely related to the vertebrate Sox factors that support a neural precursor state, is also expressed in the foregut throughout gastrulation, suggesting that this region of the fully formed archenteron retains an unexpected pluripotency. Together, these results lead to the unexpected conclusion that, within a cell lineage already specified to be endoderm by a well-established gene regulatory network [Peter IS, Davidson EH (2010) Dev Biol 340:188-199], there also operates a Six3/Nkx3-2-dependent pathway required for the de novo specification of some of the neurons in the pharynx. As a result, neuroendoderm precursors form in the foregut aided by retention of a SoxB1-dependent pluripotent state.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2011; 108(22):9143-7. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Food can act as a powerful stimulus, eliciting metabolic, behavioural and developmental responses. These phenotypic changes can alter ecological and evolutionary processes; yet, the molecular mechanisms underlying many plastic phenotypic responses remain unknown. Here we show that dopamine signalling through a type-D(2) receptor mediates developmental plasticity by regulating arm length in pre-feeding sea urchin larvae in response to food availability. Although prey-induced traits are often thought to improve food acquisition, the mechanism underlying this plastic response acts to reduce feeding structure size and subsequent feeding rate. Consequently, the developmental programme and/or maternal provisioning predetermine the maximum possible feeding rate, and food-induced dopamine signalling reduces food acquisition potential during periods of abundant resources to preserve maternal energetic reserves. Sea urchin larvae may have co-opted the widespread use of food-induced dopamine signalling from behavioural responses to instead alter their development.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The ciliary band is a distinct region of embryonic ectoderm that is specified between oral and aboral ectoderm. Flask-shaped ciliary cells and neurons differentiate in this region and they are patterned to form an integrated tissue that functions as the principal swimming and feeding organ of the larva. TGFβ signaling, which is known to mediate oral and aboral patterning of the ectoderm, has been implicated in ciliary band formation. We have used morpholino knockdown and ectopic expression of RNA to alter TGFβ signaling at the level of ligands, receptors, and signal transduction components and assessed the differentiation and patterning of the ciliary band cells and associated neurons. We propose that the primary effects of these signals are to position the ciliary cells, which in turn support neural differentiation. We show that Nodal signaling, which is known to be localized by Lefty, positions the oral margin of the ciliary band. Signaling from BMP through Alk3/6, affects the position of the oral and aboral margins of the ciliary band. Since both Nodal and BMP signaling produce ectoderm that does not support neurogenesis, we propose that formation of a ciliary band requires protection from these signals. Expression of BMP2/4 and Nodal suppress neural differentiation. However, the response to receptor knockdown or dominant-negative forms of signal transduction components indicate signaling is not acting directly on unspecified ectoderm cells to prevent their differentiation as neurons. Instead, it produces a restricted field of ciliary band cells that supports neurogenesis. We propose a model that incorporates spatially regulated control of Nodal and BMP signaling to determine the position and differentiation of the ciliary band, and subsequent neural patterning.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Two major signaling centers have been shown to control patterning of sea urchin embryos. Canonical Wnt signaling in vegetal blastomeres and Nodal signaling in presumptive oral ectoderm are necessary and sufficient to initiate patterning along the primary and secondary axes, respectively. Here we define and characterize a third patterning center, the animal pole domain (APD), which contains neurogenic ectoderm, and can oppose Wnt and Nodal signaling. The regulatory influence of the APD is normally restricted to the animal pole region, but can operate in most cells of the embryo because, in the absence of Wnt and Nodal, the APD expands throughout the embryo. We have identified many constituent APD regulatory genes expressed in the early blastula and have shown that expression of most of them requires Six3 function. Furthermore, Six3 is necessary for the differentiation of diverse cell types in the APD, including the neurogenic animal plate and immediately flanking ectoderm, indicating that it functions at or near the top of several APD gene regulatory networks. Remarkably, it is also sufficient to respecify the fates of cells in the rest of the embryo, generating an embryo consisting of a greatly expanded, but correctly patterned, APD. A fraction of the large group of Six3-dependent regulatory proteins are orthologous to those expressed in the vertebrate forebrain, suggesting that they controlled formation of the early neurogenic domain in the common deuterostome ancestor of echinoderms and vertebrates.
Development 05/2009; 136(7):1179-89. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A major goal of contemporary studies of embryonic development is to understand large sets of regulatory changes that accompany the phenomenon of embryonic induction. The highly resolved sea urchin pregastrular endomesoderm-gene regulatory network (EM-GRN) provides a unique framework to study the global regulatory interactions underlying endomesoderm induction. Vegetal micromeres of the sea urchin embryo constitute a classic endomesoderm signaling center, whose potential to induce archenteron formation from presumptive ectoderm was demonstrated almost a century ago. In this work, we ectopically activate the primary mesenchyme cell-GRN (PMC-GRN) that operates in micromere progeny by misexpressing the micromere determinant Pmar1 and identify the responding EM-GRN that is induced in animal blastomeres. Using localized loss-of -function analyses in conjunction with expression of endo16, the molecular definition of micromere-dependent endomesoderm specification, we show that the TGFbeta cytokine, ActivinB, is an essential component of this induction in blastomeres that emit this signal, as well as in cells that respond to it. We report that normal pregastrular endomesoderm specification requires activation of the Pmar1-inducible subset of the EM-GRN by the same cytokine, strongly suggesting that early micromere-mediated endomesoderm specification, which regulates timely gastrulation in the sea urchin embryo, is also ActivinB dependent. This study unexpectedly uncovers the existence of an additional uncharacterized micromere signal to endomesoderm progenitors, significantly revising existing models. In one of the first network-level characterizations of an intercellular inductive phenomenon, we describe an important in vivo model of the requirement of ActivinB signaling in the earliest steps of embryonic endomesoderm progenitor specification.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This article describes the use of in situ hybridization to study gene expression. We consider the advantages of this technique in comparison to other methods for analyzing gene expression at the level of messenger RNAs, and compare the information that can be obtained by localization of mRNAs by in situ hybridization versus localization of proteins by immunohistochemistry. We describe applications of in situ hybridization to the study of normal and abnormal development and tissue function. We then present the protocol developed in our laboratory as a framework for detailed discussion of each of the steps in the procedure, and comment on the relative merits of different options at each step. Individual steps discussed include tissue fixation and prehybridization treatments, choice of probes, hybridization parameters (probe concentration, time, and temperature), posthybridization washes, choice of isotopes and nonisotopic methods for detecting hybridized probe, and autoradiography. Finally, we discuss controls that can be used to increase the reliability, specificity and quantitative accuracy of the data obtained.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The primary (animal-vegetal) (AV) and secondary (oral-aboral) (OA) axes of sea urchin embryos are established by distinct regulatory pathways. However, because experimental perturbations of AV patterning also invariably disrupt OA patterning and radialize the embryo, these two axes must be mechanistically linked. Here we show that FoxQ2, which is progressively restricted to the animal plate during cleavage stages, provides this linkage. When AV patterning is prevented by blocking the nuclear function of beta-catenin, the animal plate where FoxQ2 is expressed expands throughout the future ectoderm, and expression of nodal, which initiates OA polarity, is blocked. Surprisingly, nodal transcription and OA differentiation are rescued simply by inhibiting FoxQ2 translation. Therefore, restriction of FoxQ2 to the animal plate is a crucial element of canonical Wnt signaling that coordinates patterning along the AV axis with the initiation of OA specification.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Early development of animal embryos involves establishing axial polarities that specify the anlage of major tissues in a 3-dimensional pattern. Cell fates are specified on this coordinate system through a combination of differential inheritance of maternal regulatory molecules and signaling interactions among cells. Correct patterning of cell fates along the primary axis of the sea urchin embryo depends on tightly regulating the ratio of activities of two nuclear regulatory proteins, SoxB1 and nuclear β–catenin. The latter acts at the top of the gene regulatory network that specifies mesoderm and endoderm and activates, directly or indirectly, signaling by Delta, Wnt8 and Nodal. In contrast, SoxB1 initially accumulates in all nuclei but is progressively eliminated from presumptive mesoderm and endoderm by β-catenin-dependent transcriptional repression and by localized protein turnover, a novel pathway acting downstream of canonical Wnt signaling. A precise temporal program for SoxB1 down regulation is crucial for endomesoderm development because SoxB1 interferes with β–catenin's transcriptional regulatory function. The mechanisms we are beginning to understand that govern the β–catenin-SoxB1 antagonism in sea urchin embryos are likely to have broad significance, since Sox factors are involved in regulating many developmental processes in many deuterostome embryos.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Molecular paleoecology is the application of molecular data to test hypotheses made by paleoecological scenarios. Here, we use gene regulatory analysis to test between two competing paleoecological scenarios put forth to explain the evolution of complex life cycles. The first posits that early bilaterians were holobenthic, and the evolution of macrophagous grazing drove the exploitation of the pelagos by metazoan eggs and embryos, and eventually larvae. The alternative hypothesis predicts that early bilaterians were holopelagic, and new adult stages were added on when these holopelagic forms began to feed on the benthos. The former hypothesis predicts that the larvae of protostomes and deuterostomes are not homologous, with the implication that larval-specific structures, including the apical organ, are the products of convergent evolution, whereas the latter hypothesis predicts homology of larvae, specifically homology of the apical organ. We show that in the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, the transcription factors NK2.1 and HNF6 are necessary for the correct spatial expression profiles of five different cilia genes. All of these genes are expressed exclusively in the apical plate after the mesenchyme-blastula stage in cells that also express NK2.1 and HNF6. In addition, abrogation of SpNK2.1 results in embryos that lack the apical tuft. However, in the red abalone, Haliotis rufescens, NK2.1 and HNF6 are not expressed in any cells that also express these same five cilia genes. Nonetheless, like the sea urchin, the gastropod expresses both NK2.1 and FoxA around the stomodeum and foregut, and FoxA around the proctodeum. As we detected no similarity in the development of the apical tuft between the sea urchin and the abalone, these molecular data are consistent with the hypothesis that the evolution of mobile, macrophagous metazoans drove the evolution of complex life cycles multiple times independently in the late Precambrian.
Evolution & Development 01/2007; 9(1):10-24. · 3.16 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We report the sequence and analysis of the 814-megabase genome of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, a model for developmental and systems biology. The sequencing strategy combined whole-genome shotgun and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) sequences. This use of BAC clones, aided by a pooling strategy, overcame difficulties associated with high heterozygosity of the genome. The genome encodes about 23,300 genes, including many previously thought to be vertebrate innovations or known only outside the deuterostomes. This echinoderm genome provides an evolutionary outgroup for the chordates and yields insights into the evolution of deuterostomes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present an initial characterization of a database that contains temporal expression profiles of sequences found in 35,282 gene predictions within the sea urchin genome. The relative RNA abundance for each sequence was determined at 5 key stages of development using high-density oligonucleotide microarrays that were hybridized with populations of polyA+ RNA sequence. These stages were two-cell, which represents maternal RNA, early blastula, the time at which major tissue territories are specified, early and late gastrula, during which important morphogenetic events occur, and the pluteus larva, which marks the culmination of pre-feeding embryogenesis. We provide evidence that the microarray reliably reports the temporal profiles for the large majority of predicted genes, as shown by comparison to data for many genes with known expression patterns. The sensitivity of this assay allows detection of mRNAs whose concentration is only several hundred copies/embryo. The temporal expression profiles indicate that 5% of the gene predictions encode mRNAs that are found only in the maternal population while 24% are embryo-specific. Further, we find that the concentration of >80% of different mRNAs is modulated by more than a factor of 3 during development. Along with the annotated sea urchin genome sequence and the whole-genome tiling array (the transcriptome, Samanta, M., Tongprasit, W., Istrrail, S., Cameron, R., Tu, Q., Davidson, E., Stolc, V., in press. A high-resolution transcriptome map of the sea urchin embryo. Science), this database proves a valuable resource for designing experiments to test the function of specific genes during development.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Patterning of cell fates along the sea urchin animal-vegetal embryonic axis requires the opposing functions of nuclear beta-catenin/TCF-Lef, which activates the endomesoderm gene regulatory network, and SoxB1, which antagonizes beta-catenin and limits its range of function. A crucial aspect of this interaction is the temporally controlled downregulation of SoxB1, first in micromeres and then in macromere progeny. We show that SoxB1 is regulated at the level of protein turnover in these lineages. This mechanism is dependent on nuclear beta-catenin function. It can be activated by Pmar1, but not by Krl, both of which function downstream of beta-catenin/TCF-Lef. At least partially distinct, lineage-specific mechanisms operate, as turnover in the macromeres depends on entry of SoxB1 into nuclei, and on redundant destruction signals, neither of which is required in micromeres. Neither of these turnover mechanisms operates in mesomere progeny, which give rise to ectoderm. However, in mesomeres, SoxB1 appears to be subject to negative autoregulation that helps to maintain tight regulation of SoxB1 mRNA levels in presumptive ectoderm. Between the seventh and tenth cleavage stages, beta-catenin not only promotes degradation of SoxB1, but also suppresses accumulation of its message in macromere-derived blastomeres. Collectively, these different mechanisms work to regulate precisely the levels of SoxB1 in the progeny of different tiers of blastomeres arrayed along the animal-vegetal axis.
Development 04/2005; 132(5):999-1008. · 6.21 Impact Factor