Zhen Zhang

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

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Publications (3)19.02 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Planar cell polarity (PCP) regulates cell alignment required for collective cell movement during embryonic development. This requires PCP/PCP effector proteins, some of which also play essential roles in ciliogenesis, highlighting the long-standing question of the role of the cilium in PCP. Wdpcp, a PCP effector, was recently shown to regulate both ciliogenesis and collective cell movement, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. Here we show Wdpcp can regulate PCP by direct modulation of the actin cytoskeleton. These studies were made possible by recovery of a Wdpcp mutant mouse model. Wdpcp-deficient mice exhibit phenotypes reminiscent of Bardet-Biedl/Meckel-Gruber ciliopathy syndromes, including cardiac outflow tract and cochlea defects associated with PCP perturbation. We observed Wdpcp is localized to the transition zone, and in Wdpcp-deficient cells, Sept2, Nphp1, and Mks1 were lost from the transition zone, indicating Wdpcp is required for recruitment of proteins essential for ciliogenesis. Wdpcp is also found in the cytoplasm, where it is localized in the actin cytoskeleton and in focal adhesions. Wdpcp interacts with Sept2 and is colocalized with Sept2 in actin filaments, but in Wdpcp-deficient cells, Sept2 was lost from the actin cytoskeleton, suggesting Wdpcp is required for Sept2 recruitment to actin filaments. Significantly, organization of the actin filaments and focal contacts were markedly changed in Wdpcp-deficient cells. This was associated with decreased membrane ruffling, failure to establish cell polarity, and loss of directional cell migration. These results suggest the PCP defects in Wdpcp mutants are not caused by loss of cilia, but by direct disruption of the actin cytoskeleton. Consistent with this, Wdpcp mutant cochlea has normal kinocilia and yet exhibits PCP defects. Together, these findings provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, that a PCP component required for ciliogenesis can directly modulate the actin cytoskeleton to regulate cell polarity and directional cell migration.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · PLoS Biology
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    ABSTRACT: This chapter explores the genetic basis for congenital heart disease with the help of mouse ENU mutagenesis. The causes of congenital heart disease are complex (Strauss, 1998; Garg, 2006). A genetic contribution is clearly seen with chromosomal abnormalities such as in DiGeorge syndrome, where cardiac defects are found in conjunction with other birth defects due to haploinsufficiency associated with chromosome 22q11 microdeletion. Most human congenital heart diseases, however, are sporadic and nonsyndromic, occurring in isolation from other birth defects. Human congenital heart disease is often associated with variable penetrance, so that not all individuals with a disease-causing mutation will have the same structural heart disease. Variable expressivity is also observed, where the same mutation can present with different congenital heart disease in different patients. Finally, gene-environment interactions can affect disease risk, further complicating the analysis. The complex genetics associated with human congenital heart disease have been difficult to unravel, given the inherent genetic heterogeneity of the human population. This makes a compelling case for the use of genetically-inbred animal models to pursue studies to elucidate the genetic etiology of congenital heart disease.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2010
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    ABSTRACT: Forward genetic screens with ENU (N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea) mutagenesis can facilitate gene discovery, but mutation identification is often difficult. We present the first study in which an ENU-induced mutation was identified by massively parallel DNA sequencing. This mutation causes heterotaxy and complex congenital heart defects and was mapped to a 2.2-Mb interval on mouse chromosome 7. Massively parallel sequencing of the entire 2.2-Mb interval identified 2 single-base substitutions, one in an intergenic region and a second causing replacement of a highly conserved cysteine with arginine (C193R) in the gene Megf8. Megf8 is evolutionarily conserved from human to fruit fly, and is observed to be ubiquitously expressed. Morpholino knockdown of Megf8 in zebrafish embryos resulted in a high incidence of heterotaxy, indicating a conserved role in laterality specification. Megf8(C193R) mouse mutants show normal breaking of symmetry at the node, but Nodal signaling failed to be propagated to the left lateral plate mesoderm. Videomicroscopy showed nodal cilia motility, which is required for left-right patterning, is unaffected. Although this protein is predicted to have receptor function based on its amino acid sequence, surprisingly confocal imaging showed it is translocated into the nucleus, where it is colocalized with Gfi1b and Baf60C, two proteins involved in chromatin remodeling. Overall, through the recovery of an ENU-induced mutation, we uncovered Megf8 as an essential regulator of left-right patterning.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2009 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Publication Stats

47 Citations
19.02 Total Impact Points


  • 2013
    • University of Pittsburgh
      • Department of Developmental Biology
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2009
    • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
      베서스다, Maryland, United States