The motility and morphogenesis of endothelial cells is controlled by spatio-temporally regulated activation of integrin adhesion receptors, and integrin activation is stimulated by major determinants of vascular remodelling. In order for endothelial cells to be responsive to changes in activator gradients, the adhesiveness of these cells to the extracellular matrix must be dynamic, and negative regulators of integrins could be required. Here we show that during vascular development and experimental angiogenesis, endothelial cells generate autocrine chemorepulsive signals of class 3 semaphorins (SEMA3 proteins) that localize at nascent adhesive sites in spreading endothelial cells. Disrupting endogenous SEMA3 function in endothelial cells stimulates integrin-mediated adhesion and migration to extracellular matrices, whereas exogenous SEMA3 proteins antagonize integrin activation. Misexpression of dominant negative SEMA3 receptors in chick embryo endothelial cells locks integrins in an active conformation, and severely impairs vascular remodelling. Sema3a null mice show vascular defects as well. Thus during angiogenesis endothelial SEMA3 proteins endow the vascular system with the plasticity required for its reshaping by controlling integrin function.
Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling from the posterior zone of polarizing activity (ZPA) is the primary determinant of anterior-posterior polarity in the vertebrate limb field. An active signal is produced by an autoprocessing reaction that covalently links cholesterol to the N-terminal signaling moiety (N-Shh(p)), tethering N-Shh(p) to the cell membrane. We have addressed the role played by this lipophilic modification in Shh-mediated patterning of mouse digits. Both the distribution and activity of N-Shh(p) indicate that N-Shh(p) acts directly over a few hundred microns. In contrast, N-Shh, a form that lacks cholesterol, retains similar biological activity to N-Shh(p), but signaling is posteriorly restricted. Thus, cholesterol modification is essential for the normal range of signaling. It also appears to be necessary for appropriate modulation of signaling by the Shh receptor, Ptc1.
To further define the role of a T-box transcription factor, Tbx5, in cardiac development, we have examined its expression in the developing mouse and chick heart and correlated this pattern with cardiac defects caused by human TBX5 mutations in Holt-Oram syndrome. Early in the developing heart, Tbx5 is uniformly expressed throughout the entire cardiac crescent. Upon formation of the linear heart tube, Tbx5 is expressed in a graded fashion, stronger near the posterior end and weaker at the anterior end. As the heart tube loops, asymmetric Tbx5 expression continues; Tbx5 is expressed in the presumptive left ventricle, but not the right ventricle or outflow tract. This pattern of expression is maintained in more mature hearts. Expression in the ventricular septum is restricted to the left side and is contiguous with left ventricular free wall expression. Trabeculae, vena cavae (inferior and superior), and the atrial aspect of the atrioventricular valves also express high levels of Tbx5. These patterns of Tbx5 expression provide an embryologic basis for the prevalence of atrial septal defects (ostium primum and secundum), ventricular muscular septal defects, and left-sided malformations (endocardial cushion defects, hypoplastic left heart, and aberrant trabeculation) observed in patients with Holt-Oram syndrome.
The mechanism by which asymmetric signals induce left-right-specific morphogenesis has been elusive. Pitx2 encodes a transcription factor expressed throughout the left lateral plate mesoderm and subsequently on the left side of asymmetric organs such as the heart and gut during organogenesis in the chick embryo. Pitx2 is induced by the asymmetric signals encoded by Nodal and Sonic hedgehog, and its expression is blocked by prior treatment with an antibody against Sonic hedgehog. Misexpression of Pitx2 on the right side of the embryo is sufficient to produce reversed heart looping and heart isomerisms, reversed body rotation, and reversed gut situs.
Tbx5 is a T-box transcription factor expressed exclusively in the developing forelimb but not in the developing hindlimb of vertebrates. Tbx5 is first detected in the prospective forelimb mesenchyme prior to overt limb bud outgrowth and its expression is maintained throughout later limb development stages. Direct evidence for a role of Tbx5 in forelimb development was provided by the discovery that mutations in human TBX5 cause Holt-Oram Syndrome (HOS), a dominant disorder characterised predominantly by upper(fore) limb defects and heart abnormalities. Misexpression studies in the chick have demonstrated a role for this gene in limb-type specification. Using a conditional knockout strategy in the mouse to delete Tbx5 gene function in the developing forelimb, we demonstrate that this gene is also required at early limb bud stages for forelimb bud development. In addition, by misexpressing dominant-negative and dominant-activated forms of Tbx5 in the chick wing we provide evidence that this gene is also required at later stages of limb bud development for continued limb outgrowth. Our results provide a context to understand the defects observed in HOS caused by haploinsufficiency of TBX5 in human. Moreover, our results also demonstrate that limb bud outgrowth and specification of limb identity are linked by a requirement for Tbx5.
Vertebrate HoxA and HoxD cluster genes are required for proper limb development. However, early lethality, compensation and redundancy have made a full assessment of their function difficult. Here we describe mice that are lacking all Hoxa and Hoxd functions in their forelimbs. We show that such limbs are arrested early in their developmental patterning and display severe truncations of distal elements, partly owing to the absence of Sonic hedgehog expression. These results indicate that the evolutionary recruitment of Hox gene function into growing appendages might have been crucial in implementing hedgehog signalling, subsequently leading to the distal extension of tetrapod appendages. Accordingly, these mutant limbs may be reminiscent of an ancestral trunk extension, related to that proposed for arthropods.
In spite of recent breakthroughs in understanding limb patterning, the genetic factors determining the differences between the forelimb and the hindlimb have not been understood. The genes Pitx1 and Tbx4 encode transcription factors that are expressed throughout the developing hindlimb but not forelimb buds. Misexpression of Pitx1 in the chick wing bud induced distal expression of Tbx4, as well as HoxC10 and HoxC11, which are normally restricted to hindlimb expression domains. Wing buds in which Pitx1 was misexpressed developed into limbs with some morphological characteristics of hindlimbs: the flexure was altered to that normally observed in legs, the digits were more toe-like in their relative size and shape, and the muscle pattern was transformed to that of a leg.
We report that targeted inactivation of the Eph receptor ligand ephrinB1 in mouse caused perinatal lethality, edema, defective body wall closure, and skeletal abnormalities. In the thorax, sternocostal connections were arranged asymmetrically and sternebrae were fused, defects that were phenocopied in EphB2/EphB3 receptor mutants. In the wrist, loss of ephrinB1 led to abnormal cartilage segmentation and the formation of additional skeletal elements. We conclude that ephrinB1 and B class Eph receptors provide positional cues required for the normal morphogenesis of skeletal elements. Another malformation, preaxial polydactyly, was exclusively seen in heterozygous females in which expression of the X-linked ephrinB1 gene was mosaic, so that ectopic EphB-ephrinB1 interactions led to restricted cell movements and the bifurcation of digital rays. Our findings suggest that differential cell adhesion and sorting might be relevant for an unusual class of X-linked human genetic disorders, in which heterozygous females show more severe phenotypes than hemizygous males.
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