Michela Ori

Università di Pisa, Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

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Publications (25)91.13 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Neurotransmitters play important roles in neurogenesis; in particular, acetylcholine and serotonin may regulate neurite elongation. Acetylcholine may also activate transcription factors such as early growth response protein 1 (EGR-1), which plays a role in neurite extension. N18TG2 neuroblastoma cells (which do not produce neurotransmitters and constitutively express muscarinic acetylcholine receptors) were transfected with constructs containing the cDNA for choline acetyltransferase, 5-hydroxytryptamine 1A (5-HT1A) and 5-HT2B serotonin receptors to study acetylcholine and serotonin interplay in neurite outgrowth. 5-HT1A receptor stimulation causes a decrease in EGR-1 levels and inhibition of neurite outgrowth; 5-HT2B stimulation, however, has no effect. Muscarinic cholinergic stimulation, on the other end, increases EGR-1 levels and fiber outgrowth. Inhibition of EGR-1 binding reduces fiber outgrowth activity. When both cholinergic and 5-HT1A receptors are stimulated, fiber outgrowth is restored; therefore, acetylcholine counterbalances the inhibitory effect of serotonin on neurite outgrowth. These results suggest that EGR-1 plays a role in the interplay of acetylcholine and serotonin in the regulation of neurite extension during development. © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Developmental Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: The serotonin receptor 5-HT2B has been shown to be critically important during embryogenesis as the knockout of this gene in mice causes heart defects and embryonic lethality that impairs further analyses on other embryonic cell and tissue types. In the present review, we highlight how the use of Xenopus laevis, an alternative vertebrate model suitable for gene loss and gain of function analyses, has contributed to our understanding of the role of 5-HT2B signaling during development. In vivo studies showed that 5-HT2B signaling is not only required for heart development, but that it also has a crucial role in ocular and craniofacial morphogenesis, being involved in shaping the first branchial arch and the jaw joint, in retinogenesis and possibly in periocular mesenchyme development. These findings may be relevant for our understanding of congenital defects including human birth malformations. In addition, 5-HT2B appears to be required for the therapeutic actions of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors commonly prescribed as antidepressant drugs to pregnant and lactating women. We discuss how the understanding of the molecular basis of serotonin signaling in a suitable animal embryogenesis model may open new lines of investigations and therapies in humans.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2013 · The International journal of developmental biology
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    Paola Casini · Irma Nardi · Michela Ori
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    ABSTRACT: Hyaluronan is a crucial glycosaminoglycan of the vertebrate embryonic extracellular matrix able to influence cell behaviour, both by assembling the pericellular matrices and by activating signal transducing receptors such as CD44. We showed that the hyaluronan synthases, Has1 and Has2, and CD44 display a dynamic expression pattern during cranial neural crest cells (NCC) development. By knocking down Has1 and Has2 gene functions, we revealed that hyaluronan synthesized by Has1 and Has2 is necessary for the proper development of the visceral skeleton. The data suggest that hyaluronan helps to maintain the active migratory behaviour of cranial NCC, and that its presence around pre-chondrogenic NCC is crucial for their survival. CD44 knock down also suggests that the role of hyaluronan in cranial NCC migration could be mediated, at least in part, by the activation of CD44. These findings contribute to the unveiling of the functional relation between NCC and their extracellular environment during craniofacial development.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2012 · Developmental Dynamics
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    Michela Ori · Elisa Reisoli · Giulia Marras · Irma Nardi

    Preview · Article · Aug 2011 · Developmental Biology
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    ABSTRACT: In vertebrate embryos, retinoic acid (RA) synthesized in the mesoderm by Raldh2 emanates to the hindbrain neuroepithelium, where it induces anteroposterior (AP)-restricted Hox expression patterns and rhombomere segmentation. However, how appropriate spatiotemporal RA activity is generated in the hindbrain is poorly understood. By analyzing Pbx1/Pbx2 and Hoxa1/Pbx1 null mice, we found that Raldh2 is itself under the transcriptional control of these factors and that the resulting RA-deficient phenotypes can be partially rescued by exogenous RA. Hoxa1-Pbx1/2-Meis2 directly binds a specific regulatory element that is required to maintain normal Raldh2 expression levels in vivo. Mesoderm-specific Xhoxa1 and Xpbx1b knockdowns in Xenopus embryos also result in Xraldh2 downregulation and hindbrain defects similar to mouse mutants, demonstrating conservation of this Hox-Pbx-dependent regulatory pathway. These findings reveal a feed-forward mechanism linking Hox-Pbx-dependent RA synthesis during early axial patterning with the establishment of spatially restricted Hox-Pbx activity in the developing hindbrain.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2011 · Developmental Cell
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    ABSTRACT: Serotonin (5-HT) is a neuromodulator that plays many different roles in adult and embryonic life. Among the 5-HT receptors, 5-HT2B is one of the key mediators of 5-HT functions during development. We used Xenopus laevis as a model system to further investigate the role of 5-HT2B in embryogenesis, focusing on craniofacial development. By means of gene gain- and loss-of-function approaches and tissue transplantation assays, we demonstrated that 5-HT2B modulates, in a cell-autonomous manner, postmigratory skeletogenic cranial neural crest cell (NCC) behavior without altering early steps of cranial NCC development and migration. 5-HT2B overexpression induced the formation of an ectopic visceral skeletal element and altered the dorsoventral patterning of the branchial arches. Loss-of-function experiments revealed that 5-HT2B signaling is necessary for jaw joint formation and for shaping the mandibular arch skeletal elements. In particular, 5-HT2B signaling is required to define and sustain the Xbap expression necessary for jaw joint formation. To shed light on the molecular identity of the transduction pathway acting downstream of 5-HT2B, we analyzed the function of phospholipase C beta 3 (PLC) in Xenopus development and showed that PLC is the effector of 5-HT2B during craniofacial development. Our results unveiled an unsuspected role of 5-HT2B in craniofacial development and contribute to our understanding of the interactive network of patterning signals that is involved in the development and evolution of the vertebrate mandibular arch.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2010 · Development
  • P Casini · I Nardi · M Ori
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    ABSTRACT: Extracellular matrix components can influence cell behaviour by modulating a wide variety of events. In particular, the glycosaminoglycan hyaluronan is involved in many processes of the normal and pathological adult cells and it is essential for embryonic development. Two main HA receptors have been characterized in vertebrate developing embryos: CD44 and RHAMM. These receptors display completely different characteristics apart from their ability to bind hyaluronan. RHAMM is still the most mysterious hyaluronan receptor as it can act as cell surface receptor but it can also be localized in the cytoplasm or in the cell nucleus, displaying both hyaluronan dependent and independent functions. In particular, the role of RHAMM during embryogenesis is still largely unclear. We reported a detailed gene expression analysis of RHAMM during Xenopus laevis development comparing its mRNA distribution with that of the hyaluronan synthases and CD44 genes, in order to provide a first insight into the possible role of RHAMM during vertebrate embryogenesis. Our findings point out that RHAMM mRNA displays a specific distribution in proliferating regions of the developing neural tube and retina where synthesis of hyaluronan is not detected. On the contrary, RHAMM expression correlates with the expression of hyaluronan synthase-1 and hyaluronan-receptor CD44 gene expression in migrating cranial neural crest. These results suggest that during the central nervous system development RHAMM could be involved in cell proliferation and migration processes both in a hyaluronan independent and dependent manner.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2010 · Gene Expression Patterns
  • Paola Casini · Roberto Perris · Irma Nardi · Michela Ori

    No preview · Article · Dec 2008 · Matrix Biology
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    ABSTRACT: In vertebrates, eye development comprises inductive and morphogenetic events that are finely regulated by the coordinated action of many intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Recent evidence suggested that neurotransmitters could be enumerated by the extracellular signals contributing to the retinal and eye development. We showed that, among these neuromodulators, serotonin acting via the 5-HT2B receptor, is involved in the control of retinoblasts proliferation and survival in Xenopus embryogenesis. To further clarify the role of 5-HT2B receptor in ocular development, we performed a gene gain of function analysis in vitro and in vivo in Xenopus embryos. We confirmed that 5-HT2B overexpression is per se sufficient to promote cell proliferation in a neuroblastoma cell line. The in vivo experiments revealed that an over serotonin signaling, via 5-HT2B receptors, resulted in the formation of eyes with an irregular form, position and orientation. Interestingly, we showed 5-HT2B gene expression in periocular mesenchyme that represents a key signaling center required for a correct eye morphogenesis. Moreover, the 5-HT2B receptor overexpressing retina, displays a disorganization of the typical laminar structure with the presence of retinal cells scattered in ectopic positions or forming rosette like structures. On the whole our data support the idea that serotonin signalling has to be finely regulated during eye development to allow a correct retinogenesis and may participate in the correct orchestration and synergism of all the factors and events that regulate eye morphogenesis in ocular and periocular tissues.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2008 · Brain research
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    ABSTRACT: The chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (PG) PG-M/versican is known to be a primary component of the vertebrate embryonic extracellular matrix and, in the mouse, functional abrogation of the versican gene leads to severe cardiovascular malformations and embryonic lethality. In order to provide a means for approaching the study of the role of versican during embryogenesis, we have cloned the Xenopus versican cDNA and we have performed in situ hybridization on embryos at different stages of development. We showed maternal Xversican transcription, as well as a previously undocumented early expression of the PG during gastrulation and neurulation. At later stages of development, spatial transcription of Xversican correlates with the patterns of migrating neural crest cells (NCC) and it is expressed in embryonic regions representing the final sites of arrest of NCC. Xversican mRNA was also detected in a subpopulation of trunk NCC migrating into the fin, in tissues flanking the trunk NCC ventral migratory pathway and in post-migratory cranial skeletogenic NCC. Further embryonic sites expressing Xversican were the pronephros, pronephric ducts, heart anlage and branchial pouches. These findings constitute the basis for future studies aimed at clarifying unresolved aspects of versican function during embryogenesis.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2008 · The International Journal of Developmental Biology
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    ABSTRACT: UDP-glucose dehydrogenase (UGDH) supplies the cell with UDP-glucuronic acid (UDP-GlcUA), a precursor of glycosaminoglycan and proteoglycan synthesis. Here we reported the cloning and the characterization of the UGDH from the amphibian Xenopus laevis that is one of the model organisms for developmental biology. We found that X. laevis UGDH (xUGDH) maintained a very high degree of similarity with other known UGDH sequences both at the genomic and the protein levels. Also its kinetic parameters are similar to those of UGDH from other species. During X. laevis development, UDGH is always expressed but clearly increases its mRNA levels at the tail bud stage (i.e. 30 h post-fertilization). This result fits well with our previous observation that hyaluronan, a glycosaminoglycan that is synthesized using UDP-GlcUA and UDP-N-acetylglucosamine, is abundantly detected at this developmental stage. The expression of UGDH was found to be related to hyaluronan synthesis. In human smooth muscle cells the overexpression of xUGDH or endogenous abrogation of UGDH modulated hyaluronan synthesis specifically. Our findings were confirmed by in vivo experiments where the silencing of xUGDH in X. laevis embryos decreased glycosaminoglycan synthesis causing severe embryonic malformations because of a defective gastrulation process.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2006 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
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    ABSTRACT: In vertebrates, hyaluronan biosynthesis is regulated by three transmembrane catalytic enzymes denoted Has1, Has2 and Has3. We have previously cloned the Xenopus orthologues of the corresponding genes and defined their spatiotemporal distribution during development. During mammalian embryogenesis, Has2 activity is known to be crucial, as its abrogation in mice leads to early embryonic lethality. Here, we show that, in Xenopus, morpholino-mediated loss-of-function of XHas2 alters somitogenesis by causing a disruption of the metameric somitic pattern and leads to a defective myogenesis. In the absence of XHas2, early myoblasts underwent apoptosis, failing to complete their muscle differentiation programme. XHas2 activity is also required for migration of hypaxial muscle cells and trunk neural crest cells (NCC). To approach the mechanism whereby loss of HA, following XHas2 knockdown, could influence somitogenesis and precursor cell migration, we cloned the orthologue of the primary HA signalling receptor CD44 and addressed its function through an analogous knockdown approach. Loss of XCD44 did not disturb somitogenesis, but strongly impaired hypaxial muscle precursor cell migration and the subsequent formation of the ventral body wall musculature. In contrast to XHas2, loss of function of XCD44 did not seem to be essential for trunk NCC migration, suggesting that the HA dependence of NCC movement was rather associated with an altered macromolecular composition of the ECM structuring the cells' migratory pathways. The presented results, extend our knowledge on Has2 function and, for the first time, demonstrate a developmental role for CD44 in vertebrates. On the whole, these data underlie and confirm the emerging importance of cell-ECM interactions and modulation during embryonic development.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2006 · Development
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    ABSTRACT: The skeletal structures of the face and throat are derived from cranial neural crest cells (NCCs) that migrate from the embryonic neural tube into a series of branchial arches (BAs). The first arch (BA1) gives rise to the upper and lower jaw cartilages, whereas hyoid structures are generated from the second arch (BA2). The Hox paralogue group 2 (PG2) genes, Hoxa2 and Hoxb2, show distinct roles for hyoid patterning in tetrapods and fishes. In the mouse, Hoxa2 acts as a selector of hyoid identity, while its paralogue Hoxb2 is not required. On the contrary, in zebrafish Hoxa2 and Hoxb2 are functionally redundant for hyoid arch patterning. Here, we show that in Xenopus embryos morpholino-induced functional knockdown of Hoxa2 is sufficient to induce homeotic changes of the second arch cartilage. Moreover, Hoxb2 is downregulated in the BA2 of Xenopus embryos, even though initially expressed in second arch NCCs, similar to mouse and unlike in zebrafish. Finally, Xbap, a gene involved in jaw joint formation, is selectively upregulated in the BA2 of Hoxa2 knocked-down frog embryos, supporting a hyoid to mandibular change of NCC identity. Thus, in Xenopus Hoxa2 does not act redundantly with Hoxb2 for BA2 patterning, similar to mouse and unlike in fish. These data bring novel insights into the regulation of Hox PG2 genes and hyoid patterning in vertebrate evolution and suggest that Hoxa2 function is required at late stages of BA2 development.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2005 · Developmental Dynamics
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we show that serotonin, via 5-HT2B receptor, is involved in Xenopus retinal histogenesis and eye morphogenesis by supporting cell proliferation and survival. To analyze the 5-HT2B function in retinal development, we performed a loss-of-function study using both a pharmacological and a morpholino antisense oligonucleotide approach. Gain-of-function experiments were made by microinjecting 5-HT2B mRNA. Misregulation of the 5-HT2B receptor activity causes alterations in the proliferation rate and survival of retinal precursors, resulting in abnormal retinal morphology, where lamination is severely compromised. Clones derived from lipofected retinoblasts that overexpress 5-HT2B show an increase in the relative percentage of ganglion cells, possibly due to protection from apoptosis. This effect is reversed in clones lipofected with a 5-HT2B-specific morpholino. We hypothesize that the survival of the correct number of ganglion cells is controlled by 5-HT/5-HT2B signaling. Serotonin, acting as a neurotrophic factor, may contribute by refining retinal connectivity and cytoarchitecture.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2005 · Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: Here reported is the developmental gene expression pattern of the three known vertebrate hyaluronan synthases (XHas1, XHas2 and XHas3) and a comparative analysis of their mRNAs spatio-temporal distribution during Xenopus laevis development. We found that while XHas2 shows a steady-state expression from gastrula to late tailbud stage, XHas1 is mainly present in the early phases of development while XHas3 is predominantly transcribed in tailbud embryos. XHas1, XHas2 and XHas3 show distinct tissue expression patterns. In particular, XHas1 is localized in ectodermal derivatives and in cranial neural crest cells, whereas XHas2 is mainly found in mesoderm-derived structures and in trunk neural crest cells. Moreover, the expression pattern of XHas2 overlaps that of MyoD in cells committed to a muscle fate. Unlike the other hyaluronan synthases, XHas3 mRNA distribution is very restricted. In particular, XHas3 is expressed in the otic vesicles and closely follows the inner ear development. In conclusion, XHas1, XHas2 and XHas3 mRNAs have distinct and never overlapping spatial expression domains, which would suggest that these three enzymes may play different roles during embryogenesis.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2004 · Gene Expression Patterns
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    ABSTRACT: The content of hyaluronan (HA), a polymer of the extracellular matrix involved in a variety of physiological and pathological processes, depends on the activity of synthetic (HAS) and degrading enzymes. Since HA is also involved in embryogenesis, we have used Xenopus as a model organism because information is available for HAS1 and HAS2, but not for HAS3. We report the sequence of xlHAS3 mRNA, its genomic organization and its expression in adult tissues as well as during embryonic development. Interestingly, evidence from in situ hybridization indicates that xlHAS3 expression is restricted to the developing inner ear and cement gland. In addition, we have correlated the expression pattern of the enzymes involved in HA metabolism with the HA content during development.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2003 · Matrix Biology
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    ABSTRACT: We have shown previously that in ruin lizards (Podarcis sicula) the ablation of all known photoreceptive structures (lateral eyes, pineal and parietal eye) in the same individual animal does not prevent entrainment of their circadian locomotor rhythms to light. The present study was aimed at identifying the circadian brain photoreceptors mediating entrainment. For this purpose, we looked for opsin expression in the brain by means of immunocytochemistry. Using anti-cone-opsin antiserum CERN 874 we have localized photoreceptors in the periventricular area of hypothalamus, near the third cerebral ventricle. We also cloned a brain opsin cDNA that, on the basis of the deduced amino acid sequence, appears to belong to the RH2 class of cone-opsins. We named the cloned cone-opsin Ps-RH2. To examine whether brain cone-opsins mediate photic entrainment of circadian locomotor rhythms, we performed post-transcriptional inactivation experiments by injecting an expression eukaryotic vector transcribing the antisense cone-opsin Ps-RH2 mRNA in the third cerebral ventricle of pinealectomized-retinectomized lizards previously entrained to a light-dark (LD) cycle. Injections of the antisense construct abolished photic entrainment of circadian locomotor rhythms of pinealectomized-retinectomized lizards to the LD cycle for 6-9 days. CERN 874 completely failed to label cells within the periventricular area of hypothalamus of brains injected with antisense construct. Thus, abolishment of photic entrainment is due to inactivation of endogenous brain cone-opsins mRNA. The present results demonstrate for the first time in a vertebrate that brain cone-opsins are part of a true circadian brain photoreceptor participating in photic entrainment of behavioural rhythms.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2003 · European Journal of Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: Here we clone the Xenopus 5-HT2B receptor cDNA and describe its spatio-temporal mRNA expression within the developing larval brain and visual system. Expression of the 5-HT2B transcripts is compared to that of 5-HT2C as well as proliferation and neurogenic markers. In developing brain and retina, 5-HT2B and 2C mRNAs are mainly expressed in proliferative regions. We suggest that these receptors may play a role in the larval secondary neurogenesis by mediating mitogenic effects of serotonin.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2003 · Molecular Brain Research
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    ABSTRACT: We have shown previously that in ruin lizards (Podarcis sicula) the ablation of all known photoreceptive structures (lateral eyes, pineal and parietal eye) in the same individual animal does not prevent entrainment of their circadian locomotor rhythms to light. The present study was aimed at identifying the circadian brain photoreceptors mediating entrainment. For this purpose, we looked for opsin expression in the brain by means of immunocytochemistry. Using anti-cone-opsin antiserum CERN 874 we have localized photoreceptors in the periventricular area of hypothalamus, near the third cerebral ventricle. We also cloned a brain opsin cDNA that, on the basis of the deduced amino acid sequence, appears to belong to the RH2 class of cone-opsins. We named the cloned cone-opsin Ps-RH2. To examine whether brain cone-opsins mediate photic entrainment of circadian locomotor rhythms, we performed post-transcriptional inactivation experiments by injecting an expression eukaryotic vector transcribing the antisense cone-opsin Ps-RH2 mRNA in the third cerebral ventricle of pinealectomized-retinectomized lizards previously entrained to a light-dark (LD) cycle. Injections of the antisense construct abolished photic entrainment of circadian locomotor rhythms of pinealectomized-retinectomized lizards to the LD cycle for 6-9 days. CERN 874 completely failed to label cells within the periventricular area of hypothalamus of brains injected with antisense construct. Thus, abolishment of photic entrainment is due to inactivation of endogenous brain cone-opsins mRNA. The present results demonstrate for the first time in a vertebrate that brain cone-opsins are part of a true circadian brain photoreceptor participating in photic entrainment of behavioural rhythms.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2003 · European Journal of Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the presence of mRNA for serotonin receptors of type 2C (5-HT(2C)) in resting lymphocytes by means of RT-PCR and Southern blotting analyses, given their possible role in the pathophysiology of anxiety and eating disorders. At the same time, we explored also the presence of the specific mRNA for 5-HT(5A) receptors, a novel subtype for which still no functional data exist. Healthy subjects and patients with obsessive-compulsive or bipolar disorders were included in the study. The results showed the presence of the specific mRNAs for both 5-HT(2C) and 5-HT(5A) receptors in resting lymphocytes of the three groups of subjects. An additional band was also observed after the amplification of the 5-HT(5A) cDNA in each sample. These findings, while revealing the presence of 5-HT(2C) and 5-HT(5A) receptor mRNAs in an easily available tissue, can be considered preliminary for future quantitative analyses in patients with different psychiatric conditions.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2001 · Neuropsychobiology