The discovery of fetal mRNA transcripts in the maternal circulation holds great promise for noninvasive prenatal diagnosis. To identify potential fetal biomarkers, we studied whole blood and plasma gene transcripts that were common to 9 term pregnant women and their newborns but absent or reduced in the mothers postpartum. RNA was isolated from peripheral or umbilical blood and hybridized to gene expression arrays. Gene expression, paired Student’s t test, and pathway analyses were performed. In whole blood, 157 gene transcripts met statistical significance. These fetal biomarkers included 27 developmental genes, 5 sensory perception genes, and 22 genes involved in neonatal physiology. Transcripts were predominantly expressed or restricted to the fetus, the embryo, or the neonate. Real-time RT-PCR amplification confirmed the presence of specific gene transcripts; SNP analysis demonstrated the presence of 3 fetal transcripts in maternal antepartum blood. Comparison of whole blood and plasma samples from the same pregnant woman suggested that placental genes are more easily detected in plasma. We conclude that fetal and placental mRNA circulates in the blood of pregnant women. Transcriptional analysis of maternal whole blood identifies a unique set of biologically diverse fetal genes and has a multitude of clinical applications.
Jill L. Maron, Kirby L. Johnson, Donna Slonim, Chao-Qiang Lai, Marco Ramoni, Gil Alterovitz, Zina Jarrah, Zinger Yang, Diana W. Bianchi
In humans, loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding Wnt1 inducible signaling pathway protein 3 (WISP3) cause the autosomal-recessive skeletal disorder progressive pseudorheumatoid dysplasia (PPD). However, in mice there is no apparent phenotype caused by Wisp3 deficiency or overexpression. Consequently, the in vivo activities of Wisp3 have remained elusive. We cloned the zebrafish ortholog of Wisp3 and investigated its biologic activity in vivo using gain-of-function and loss-of-function approaches. Overexpression of zebrafish Wisp3 protein inhibited bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Wnt signaling in developing zebrafish. Conditioned medium–containing zebrafish and human Wisp3 also inhibited BMP and Wnt signaling in mammalian cells by binding to BMP ligand and to the Wnt coreceptors low-density lipoprotein receptor–related protein 6 (LRP6) and Frizzled, respectively. Wisp3 proteins containing disease-causing amino acid substitutions found in patients with PPD had reduced activity in these assays. Morpholino-mediated inhibition of zebrafish Wisp3 protein expression in developing zebrafish affected pharyngeal cartilage size and shape. These data provide a biologic assay for Wisp3, reveal a role for Wisp3 during zebrafish cartilage development, and suggest that dysregulation of BMP and/or Wnt signaling contributes to cartilage failure in humans with PPD.
Yukio Nakamura, Gilbert Weidinger, Jennifer O. Liang, Allisan Aquilina-Beck, Keiko Tamai, Randall T. Moon, Matthew L. Warman
Forkhead box O (Foxo) transcription factors govern metabolism and cellular differentiation. Unlike Foxo-dependent metabolic pathways and target genes, the mechanisms by which these proteins regulate differentiation have not been explored. Activation of Notch signaling mimics the effects of Foxo gain of function on cellular differentiation. Using muscle differentiation as a model system, we show that Foxo physically and functionally interacts with Notch by promoting corepressor clearance from the Notch effector Csl, leading to activation of Notch target genes. Inhibition of myoblast differentiation by constitutively active Foxo1 is partly rescued by inhibition of Notch signaling while Foxo1 loss of function precludes Notch inhibition of myogenesis and increases myogenic determination gene (MyoD) expression. Accordingly, conditional Foxo1 ablation in skeletal muscle results in increased formation of MyoD-containing (fast-twitch) muscle fibers and altered fiber type distribution at the expense of myogenin-containing (slow-twitch) fibers. Notch/Foxo1 cooperation may integrate environmental cues through Notch with metabolic cues through Foxo1 to regulate progenitor cell maintenance and differentiation.
Tadahiro Kitamura, Yukari Ido Kitamura, Yasuhiro Funahashi, Carrie J. Shawber, Diego H. Castrillon, Ramya Kollipara, Ronald A. DePinho, Jan Kitajewski, Domenico Accili
Holoprosencephaly (HPE) is a clinically heterogeneous developmental anomaly affecting the CNS and face, in which the embryonic forebrain fails to divide into distinct halves. Numerous genetic loci and environmental factors are implicated in HPE, but mutation in the sonic hedgehog (Shh) gene is an established cause in both humans and mice. As growth arrest–specific 1 (Gas1) encodes a membrane glycoprotein previously identified as a Shh antagonist in the somite, we analyzed the craniofacial phenotype of mice harboring a targeted Gas1 deletion. Gas1–/– mice exhibited microform HPE, including midfacial hypoplasia, premaxillary incisor fusion, and cleft palate, in addition to severe ear defects; however, gross integrity of the forebrain remained intact. These defects were associated with partial loss of Shh signaling in cells at a distance from the source of transcription, suggesting that Gas1 can potentiate hedgehog signaling in the early face. Loss of a single Shh allele in a Gas1–/– background significantly exacerbated the midline craniofacial phenotype, providing genetic evidence that Shh and Gas1 interact. As human GAS1 maps to chromosome 9q21.3–q22, a region previously associated with nonsyndromic cleft palate and congenital deafness, our results establish GAS1 as a potential locus for several human craniofacial malformations.
Maisa Seppala, Michael J. Depew, David C. Martinelli, Chen-Ming Fan, Paul T. Sharpe, Martyn T. Cobourne
Ewing sarcoma gene EWS encodes a putative RNA-binding protein with proposed roles in transcription and splicing, but its physiological role in vivo remains undefined. Here, we have generated Ews-deficient mice and demonstrated that EWS is required for the completion of B cell development and meiosis. Analysis of Ews–/– lymphocytes revealed a cell-autonomous defect in precursor B lymphocyte (pre–B lymphocyte) development. During meiosis, Ews-null spermatocytes were deficient in XY bivalent formation and showed reduced meiotic recombination, resulting in massive apoptosis and complete arrest in gamete maturation. Inactivation of Ews in mouse embryonic fibroblasts resulted in premature cellular senescence, and the mutant animals showed hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation. Finally, we showed that EWS interacts with lamin A/C and that loss of EWS results in a reduced lamin A/C expression. Our findings reveal essential functions for EWS in pre–B cell development and meiosis, with proposed roles in DNA pairing and recombination/repair mechanisms. Furthermore, we demonstrate a novel role of EWS in cellular senescence, possibly through its interaction and modulation of lamin A/C.
Hongjie Li, Wendy Watford, Cuiling Li, Alissa Parmelee, Mark A. Bryant, Chuxia Deng, John O’Shea, Sean Bong Lee
Insig-1 and Insig-2 are regulatory proteins that restrict the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway by preventing proteolytic activation of SREBPs and by enhancing degradation of HMG-CoA reductase. Here, we created Insig–double-knockout (Insig-DKO) mice that are homozygous for null mutations in Insig-1 and Insig-2. After 18.5 days of development, 96% of Insig-DKO embryos had defects in midline facial development, ranging from cleft palate (52%) to complete cleft face (44%). Middle and inner ear structures were abnormal, but teeth and skeletons were normal. The animals were lethargic and runted; they died within 1 day of birth. The livers and heads of Insig-DKO embryos overproduced sterols, causing a marked buildup of sterol intermediates. Treatment of pregnant mice with the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor lovastatin reduced sterol synthesis in Insig-DKO embryos and reduced the pre-cholesterol intermediates. This treatment ameliorated the clefting syndrome so that 54% of Insig-DKO mice had normal faces, and only 7% had cleft faces. We conclude that buildup of pre-cholesterol sterol intermediates interferes with midline fusion of facial structures in mice. These findings have implications for the pathogenesis of the cleft palate component of Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome and other human malformation syndromes in which mutations in enzymes catalyzing steps in cholesterol biosynthesis produce a buildup of sterol intermediates.
Luke J. Engelking, Bret M. Evers, James A. Richardson, Joseph L. Goldstein, Michael S. Brown, Guosheng Liang
Dynamic and reciprocal epithelial-mesenchymal interactions are critical for the normal morphogenesis and maintenance of epithelia. Epimorphin has been identified as a unique molecule expressed by mesenchymal cells and myofibroblasts and has putative morphogenetic effects in multiple epithelial tissues, including intestine, skin, mammary gland, lung, gallbladder, and liver. To define the in vivo role of epimorphin, we created epimorphin-null mice by targeted inactivation of the epimorphin gene. Male epimorphin–/– mice are sterile due to abnormal testicular development and impaired spermatogenesis. Intestinal growth is increased in epimorphin–/– mice due to augmented crypt cell proliferation and crypt fission during the neonatal (suckling) period, mediated at least in part by changes in bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways. Colonic mucosal injury and colitis induced by dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) are ameliorated in epimorphin–/– mice, probably due to the increased proliferative capacity of the epimorphin–/– colon. These in vivo findings support the notion that epimorphin is a key stromal regulator of epithelial cell proliferation and growth in the intestine. In addition, our studies demonstrate a novel and critical role for epimorphin in regulating testicular development and growth as well as spermatogenesis.
Yuan Wang, Lihua Wang, Hristo Iordanov, Elzbieta A. Swietlicki, Qun Zheng, Shujun Jiang, Yuzhu Tang, Marc S. Levin, Deborah C. Rubin
Ectopic pancreas is a developmental anomaly occasionally found in humans. Hes1, a main effector of Notch signaling, regulates the fate and differentiation of many cell types during development. To gain insights into the role of the Notch pathway in pancreatic fate determination, we combined the use of Hes1-knockout mice and lineage tracing employing the Cre/loxP system to specifically mark pancreatic precursor cells and their progeny in Ptf1a-cre and Rosa26 reporter mice. We show that inactivation of Hes1 induces misexpression of Ptf1a in discrete regions of the primitive stomach and duodenum and throughout the common bile duct. All ectopic Ptf1a-expressing cells were reprogrammed, or transcommitted, to multipotent pancreatic progenitor status and subsequently differentiated into mature pancreatic exocrine, endocrine, and duct cells. This process recapitulated normal pancreatogenesis in terms of morphological and genetic features. Furthermore, analysis of Hes1/Ptf1a double mutants revealed that ectopic Ptf1a-cre lineage–labeled cells adopted the fate of region-appropriate gut epithelium or endocrine cells similarly to Ptf1a-inactivated cells in the native pancreatic buds. Our data demonstrate that the Hes1-mediated Notch pathway is required for region-appropriate specification of pancreas in the developing foregut endoderm through regulation of Ptf1a expression, providing novel insight into the pathogenesis of ectopic pancreas development in a mouse model.
Akihisa Fukuda, Yoshiya Kawaguchi, Kenichiro Furuyama, Sota Kodama, Masashi Horiguchi, Takeshi Kuhara, Masayuki Koizumi, Daniel F. Boyer, Koji Fujimoto, Ryuichiro Doi, Ryoichiro Kageyama, Christopher V.E. Wright, Tsutomu Chiba
Ikaros transcription factors are essential regulators of lymphopoiesis and the development of the immune system. We now show that Ikaros is expressed in hormone-producing pituitary corticomelanotroph cells, where it binds the proopiomelanocortin promoter and regulates endogenous gene expression. Loss of Ikaros in vivo results in contraction of the pituitary corticomelanotroph population, reduced circulating adrenocorticotrophic hormone levels, and adrenal glucocorticoid insufficiency. While hemopoietic reconstitution failed to correct this hormonal deficit, the phenotype of reduced body weight and diminished survival was rescued by systemic glucocorticoid-hormone administration. Given the established immunomodulatory properties of glucocorticoid hormones, these findings reveal a novel role for Ikaros in orchestrating immune-endocrine development and function.
Shereen Ezzat, Rene Mader, ShunJiang Yu, Terry Ning, Philippe Poussier, Sylvia L. Asa
B lymphocyte differentiation is coordinated with the induction of high-level Ig secretion and expansion of the secretory pathway. Upon accumulation of unfolded proteins in the lumen of the ER, cells activate an intracellular signaling pathway termed the unfolded protein response (UPR). Two major proximal sensors of the UPR are inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α), an ER transmembrane protein kinase/endoribonuclease, and ER-resident eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) kinase (PERK). To elucidate whether the UPR plays an important role in lymphopoiesis, we carried out reconstitution of recombinase-activating gene 2–deficient (rag2–/–) mice with hematopoietic cells defective in either IRE1α- or PERK-mediated signaling. IRE1α-deficient (ire1α–/–) HSCs can proliferate and give rise to pro–B cells that home to bone marrow. However, IRE1α, but not its catalytic activities, is required for Ig gene rearrangement and production of B cell receptors (BCRs). Analysis of rag2–/– mice transplanted with IRE1α trans-dominant-negative bone marrow cells demonstrated an additional requirement for IRE1α in B lymphopoiesis: both the IRE1α kinase and RNase catalytic activities are required to splice the mRNA encoding X-box–binding protein 1 (XBP1) for terminal differentiation of mature B cells into antibody-secreting plasma cells. Furthermore, UPR-mediated translational control through eIF2α phosphorylation is not required for B lymphocyte maturation and/or plasma cell differentiation. These results suggest specific requirements of the IRE1α-mediated UPR subpathway in the early and late stages of B lymphopoiesis.
Kezhong Zhang, Hetty N. Wong, Benbo Song, Corey N. Miller, Donalyn Scheuner, Randal J. Kaufman
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