The bone marrow niche is thought to act as a permissive microenvironment required for emergence or progression of hematologic cancers. We hypothesized that osteoblasts, components of the niche involved in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) function, influence the fate of leukemic blasts. We show that osteoblast numbers decrease by 55% in myelodysplasia and acute myeloid leukemia patients. Further, genetic depletion of osteoblasts in mouse models of acute leukemia increased circulating blasts and tumor engraftment in the marrow and spleen leading to higher tumor burden and shorter survival. Myelopoiesis increased and was coupled with a reduction in B lymphopoiesis and compromised erythropoiesis, suggesting that hematopoietic lineage/progression was altered. Treatment of mice with acute myeloid or lymphoblastic leukemia with a pharmacologic inhibitor of the synthesis of duodenal serotonin, a hormone suppressing osteoblast numbers, inhibited loss of osteoblasts. Maintenance of the osteoblast pool restored normal marrow function, reduced tumor burden, and prolonged survival. Leukemia prevention was attributable to maintenance of osteoblast numbers because inhibition of serotonin receptors alone in leukemic blasts did not affect leukemia progression. These results suggest that osteoblasts play a fundamental role in propagating leukemia in the marrow and may be a therapeutic target to induce hostility of the niche to leukemia blasts.
The vast majority of the mammalian genome has the potential to express noncoding RNA (ncRNA). The 11-subunit RNA exosome complex is the main source of cellular 3'-5' exoribonucleolytic activity and potentially regulates the mammalian noncoding transcriptome. Here we generated a mouse model in which the essential subunit Exosc3 of the RNA exosome complex can be conditionally deleted. Exosc3-deficient B cells lack the ability to undergo normal levels of class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation, two mutagenic DNA processes used to generate antibody diversity via the B-cell mutator protein activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID). The transcriptome of Exosc3-deficient B cells has revealed the presence of many novel RNA exosome substrate ncRNAs. RNA exosome substrate RNAs include xTSS-RNAs, transcription start site (TSS)-associated antisense transcripts that can exceed 500 base pairs in length and are transcribed divergently from cognate coding gene transcripts. xTSS-RNAs are most strongly expressed at genes that accumulate AID-mediated somatic mutations and/or are frequent translocation partners of DNA double-strand breaks generated at Igh in B cells. Strikingly, translocations near TSSs or within gene bodies occur over regions of RNA exosome substrate ncRNA expression. These RNA exosome-regulated, antisense-transcribed regions of the B-cell genome recruit AID and accumulate single-strand DNA structures containing RNA-DNA hybrids. We propose that RNA exosome regulation of ncRNA recruits AID to single-strand DNA-forming sites of antisense and divergent transcription in the B-cell genome, thereby creating a link between ncRNA transcription and overall maintenance of B-cell genomic integrity.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, afflicting more than 60 million people worldwide. Increased intraocular pressure (IOP) due to impaired aqueous humor drainage is a major risk factor for the development of glaucoma. Here, we demonstrated that genetic disruption of the angiopoietin/TIE2 (ANGPT/TIE2) signaling pathway results in high IOP, buphthalmos, and classic features of glaucoma, including retinal ganglion degeneration and vision loss. Eyes from mice with induced deletion of Angpt1 and Angpt2 (A1A2Flox(WB) mice) lacked drainage pathways in the corneal limbus, including Schlemm's canal and lymphatic capillaries, which share expression of the PROX1, VEGFR3, and FOXC family of transcription factors. VEGFR3 and FOXCs have been linked to lymphatic disorders in patients, and FOXC1 has been linked to glaucoma. In contrast to blood endothelium, in which ANGPT2 is an antagonist of ANGPT1, we have shown that both ligands cooperate to regulate TIE2 in the lymphatic network of the eye. While A1A2Flox(WB) mice developed high IOP and glaucoma, expression of ANGPT1 or ANGPT2 alone was sufficient for ocular drainage. Furthermore, we demonstrated that loss of FOXC2 from lymphatics results in TIE2 downregulation, suggesting a mechanism for ocular defects in patients with FOXC mutations. These data reveal a pathogenetic and molecular basis for glaucoma and demonstrate the importance of angiopoietin ligand cooperation in the lymphatic endothelium.
Precise control of self-renewal and differentiation of progenitor cells into the cranial neural crest (CNC) pool ensures proper head development, guided by signaling pathways such as BMPs, FGFs, Shh and Notch. Here, we show that murine Sox2 plays an essential role in controlling progenitor cell behavior during craniofacial development. A "Conditional by Inversion" Sox2 allele (Sox2(COIN) ) has been employed to generate an epiblast ablation of Sox2 function (Sox2(EpINV) ). Sox2 (EpINV/+(H)) haploinsufficient and conditional (Sox2(EpINV/mosaic) ) mutant embryos proceed beyond gastrulation and die around E11. These mutant embryos exhibit severe anterior malformations, with hydrocephaly and frontonasal truncations, which could be attributed to the deregulation of CNC progenitor cells during their epithelial to mesenchymal transition. This irregularity results in an exacerbated and aberrant migration of Sox10(+) NCC in the branchial arches and frontonasal process of the Sox2 mutant embryos. These results suggest a novel role for Sox2 as a regulator of the epithelial to mesenchymal transitions (EMT) that are important for the cell flow in the developing head.
Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are highly conserved signaling molecules that are part of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta superfamily, and function in the patterning and morphogenesis of many organs including development of the dentition. The functions of the BMPs are controlled by certain classes of molecules that are recognized as BMP antagonists that inhibit BMP binding to their cognate receptors. In this study we tested the hypothesis that USAG-1 (uterine sensitization-associated gene-1) suppresses deciduous incisors by inhibition of BMP-7 function. We learned that USAG-1 and BMP-7 were expressed within odontogenic epithelium as well as mesenchyme during the late bud and early cap stages of tooth development. USAG-1 is a BMP antagonist, and also modulates Wnt signaling. USAG-1 abrogation rescued apoptotic elimination of odontogenic mesenchymal cells. BMP signaling in the rudimentary maxillary incisor, assessed by expressions of Msx1 and Dlx2 and the phosphorylation of Smad protein, was significantly enhanced. Using explant culture and subsequent subrenal capsule transplantation of E15 USAG-1 mutant maxillary incisor tooth primordia supplemented with BMP-7 demonstrated in USAG-1+/- as well as USAG-1-/- rescue and supernumerary tooth development. Based upon these results, we conclude that USAG-1 functions as an antagonist of BMP-7 in this model system. These results further suggest that the phenotypes of USAG-1 and BMP-7 mutant mice reported provide opportunities for regenerative medicine and dentistry.
Podocyte injury is the first step in the progression of glomerulosclerosis. Previous studies have demonstrated the beneficial effect of bone morphogenetic protein 7 (Bmp7) in podocyte injury and the existence of native Bmp signaling in podocytes. Local activity of Bmp7 is controlled by cell-type specific Bmp antagonists, which inhibit the binding of Bmp7 to its receptors. Here we show that the product of Twisted gastrulation (Twsg1), a Bmp antagonist, is the central negative regulator of Bmp function in podocytes and that Twsg1 null mice are resistant to podocyte injury. Twsg1 was the most abundant Bmp antagonist in murine cultured podocytes. The administration of Bmp induced podocyte differentiation through Smad signaling, whereas the simultaneous administration of Twsg1 antagonized the effect. The administration of Bmp also inhibited podocyte proliferation, whereas simultaneous administration of Twsg1 antagonized the effect. Twsg1 was expressed in the glomerular parietal cells (PECs) and distal nephron of the healthy kidney, and additionally in damaged glomerular cells in a murine model of podocyte injury. Twsg1 null mice exhibited milder hypoalbuminemia and hyperlipidemia, and milder histological changes while maintaining the expression of podocyte markers during podocyte injury model. Taken together, our results show that Twsg1 plays a critical role in the modulation of protective action of Bmp7 on podocytes, and that inhibition of Twsg1 is a promising means of development of novel treatment for podocyte injury.
Conditional mutagenesis is becoming a method of choice for studying gene function, but constructing conditional alleles is often laborious, limited by target gene structure, and at times, prone to incomplete conditional ablation. To address these issues, we developed a technology termed conditionals by inversion (COIN). Before activation, COINs contain an inverted module (COIN module) that lies inertly within the antisense strand of a resident gene. When inverted into the sense strand by a site-specific recombinase, the COIN module causes termination of the target genes transcription and simultaneously provides a reporter for tracking this event. COIN modules can be inserted into natural introns (intronic COINs) or directly into coding exons as part of an artificial intron (exonic COINs), greatly simplifying allele design and increasing flexibility over previous conditional KO approaches. Detailed analysis of over 20 COIN alleles establishes the reliability of the method and its broad applicability to any gene, regardless of exon-intron structure. Our extensive testing provides rules that help ensure success of this approach and also explains why other currently available conditional approaches often fail to function optimally. Finally, the ability to split exons using the COINs artificial intron opens up engineering modalities for the generation of multifunctional alleles.
WNT signaling is critical in most aspects of skeletal development and homeostasis, and antagonists of WNT signaling are emerging as key regulatory proteins with great promise as therapeutic agents for bone disorders. Here we show that Sost and its paralog Sostdc1 emerged through ancestral genome duplication and their expression patterns have diverged to delineate non-overlapping domains in most organ systems including musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, reproductive and respiratory. In the developing limb, Sost and Sostdc1 display dynamic expression patterns with Sost being restricted to the distal ectoderm and Sostdc1 to the proximal ectoderm and the mesenchyme. While Sostdc1(-/-) mice lack any obvious limb or skeletal defects, Sost(-/-) mice recapitulate the hand defects described for Sclerosteosis patients. However, elevated WNT signaling in Sost(-/-); Sostdc1(-/-) mice causes misregulation of SHH signaling, ectopic activation of Sox9 in the digit 1 field and preaxial polydactyly in a Gli1- and Gli3-dependent manner. In addition, we show that the syndactyly documented in Sclerosteosis is present in both Sost(-/-) and Sost(-/-); Sostdc1(-/-) mice, and is driven by misregulation of Fgf8 in the AER, a region lacking Sost and Sostdc1 expression. This study highlights the complexity of WNT signaling in skeletal biology and disease and emphasizes how redundant mechanism and non-cell autonomous effects can synergize to unveil new intricate phenotypes caused by elevated WNT signaling.
Huntingtons disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized in part by the loss of striatopallidal medium spiny projection neurons (MSNs). Expression of BDNF and noggin via intracerebroventricular (ICV) delivery in an adenoviral vector triggers the addition of new neurons to the neostriatum. In this study, we found that a single ICV injection of the adeno-associated viruses AAV4-BDNF and AAV4-noggin triggered the sustained recruitment of new MSNs in both wild-type and R6/2 mice, a model of HD. Mice treated with AAV4-BDNF/noggin or with BDNF and noggin proteins actively recruited subependymal progenitor cells to form new MSNs that matured and achieved circuit integration. Importantly, the AAV4-BDNF/noggin-treated R6/2 mice showed delayed deterioration of motor function and substantially increased survival. In addition, squirrel monkeys given ICV injections of adenoviral BDNF/noggin showed similar addition of striatal neurons. Induced neuronal addition may therefore represent a promising avenue for disease amelioration in HD.
The number of nephrons, the functional units of the kidney, varies among individuals. A low nephron number at birth is associated with a risk of hypertension and the progression of renal insufficiency. The molecular mechanisms determining nephron number during embryogenesis have not yet been clarified. Germline knockout of bone morphogenetic protein 7 (Bmp7) results in massive apoptosis of the kidney progenitor cells and defects in early stages of nephrogenesis. This phenotype has precluded analysis of Bmp7 function in the later stage of nephrogenesis. In this study, utilization of conditional null allele of Bmp7 in combination with systemic inducible Cre deleter mice enabled us to analyze Bmp7 function at desired time points during kidney development, and to discover the novel function of Bmp7 to inhibit the precocious differentiation of the progenitor cells to nephron. Systemic knockout of Bmp7 in vivo after the initiation of kidney development results in the precocious differentiation of the kidney progenitor cells to nephron, in addition to the prominent apoptosis of progenitor cells. We also confirmed that in vitro knockout of Bmp7 in kidney explant culture results in the accelerated differentiation of progenitor population. Finally we utilized colony-forming assays and demonstrated that Bmp7 inhibits epithelialization and differentiation of the kidney progenitor cells. These results indicate that the function of Bmp7 to inhibit the precocious differentiation of the progenitor cells together with its anti-apoptotic effect on progenitor cells coordinately maintains renal progenitor pool in undifferentiated status, and determines the nephron number at birth.
Enhancing bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling increases bone formation in a variety of settings that target bone repair. However, the role of BMP in the maintenance of adult bone mass is not well understood. Targeted disruption of BMP3 in mice results in increased trabecular bone formation, whereas transgenic overexpression of BMP3 in skeletal cells leads to spontaneous fracture, consistent with BMP3 having a negative role in bone mass regulation. Here we investigate the importance of BMP3 as a mediator of BMP signaling in the adult skeleton. We find that osteoblasts (OBL) and osteocytes are the source of BMP3 in adult bone. Using in vitro cultures of primary bone marrow stromal cells, we show that overexpression of BMP3 suppresses OBL differentiation, whereas loss of BMP3 increases colony-forming unit fibroblasts and colony-forming unit OBL. The ability of BMP3 to affect OBL differentiation is due to its interaction with activin receptor type 2b (Acvr2b) because knockdown of endogenous Acvr2b in bone marrow stromal cells reduces the suppressive effect of BMP3 on OBL differentiation. These findings best fit a model in which BMP3, produced by mature bone cells, acts to reduce BMP signaling through Acvr2b in skeletal progenitor cells, limiting their differentiation to mature OBL. Our data further support the idea that endogenous BMPs have a physiological role in regulating adult bone mass.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes result from an absolute or relative reduction in functional ?-cell mass. One approach to replacing lost ?-cell mass is transplantation of cadaveric islets; however, this approach is limited by lack of adequate donor tissue. Therefore, there is much interest in identifying factors that enhance ?-cell differentiation and proliferation in vivo or in vitro. Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a secreted molecule expressed in endothelial cells, pancreatic ducts, and embryonic ? cells that we previously showed is required for ?-cell proliferation, differentiation, and islet morphogenesis during development. The current study investigated the tissue interactions by which CTGF promotes normal pancreatic islet development. We found that loss of CTGF from either endothelial cells or ? cells results in decreased embryonic ?-cell proliferation, making CTGF unique as an identified ? cell-derived factor that regulates embryonic ?-cell proliferation. Endothelial CTGF inactivation was associated with decreased islet vascularity, highlighting the proposed role of endothelial cells in ?-cell proliferation. Furthermore, CTGF overexpression in ? cells during embryogenesis using an inducible transgenic system increased islet mass at birth by promoting proliferation of immature ? cells, in the absence of changes in islet vascularity. Together, these findings demonstrate that CTGF acts in an autocrine manner during pancreas development and suggest that CTGF has the potential to enhance expansion of immature ? cells in directed differentiation or regeneration protocols.
The transforming growth factor beta (TGFB) protein family is renowned for its diverse roles in developmental biology including reproduction. Gremlin is a member of the differential screening-selected gene aberrative in neuroblastoma (DAN)/cerberus family of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonists. Recent studies on gremlin focus on its involvement in embryonic skeletal, lung, and kidney development. To define the role of gremlin (Grem1) in female reproduction, we analyzed postnatal folliculogenesis using global and conditional knockout (cKO) mice for gremlin. Grem1(-/-) mice die within 48 h after birth, and ovaries collected from neonatal Grem1(-/-) mice demonstrated reduced oocyte numbers and delayed primordial follicle development. Transplanting Grem1(-/-) neonatal ovaries showed that folliculogenesis proceeded to large antral follicle stage, but Grem1(-/-) ovaries contained corpora lutea-like structures not found in control-transplanted ovaries. However, Grem1 cKO mice had comparable fertility to control mice. These data suggest that gremlin plays a previously uncharacterized role in the regulation of oocyte numbers and the timing of primordial follicle development, but either it is not required for later folliculogenesis or its loss is possibly compensated by other BMP antagonists.
The skeleton has been shown recently to regulate glucose metabolism through an osteoblast-specific hormone, osteocalcin, which favors ?-cell proliferation, insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity, and energy expenditure. An implication of this finding is that a decrease in osteoblast numbers would compromise glucose metabolism in an osteocalcin-dependent manner. To test this hypothesis, osteoblasts were inducibly ablated by cross-breeding transgenic mice expressing a tamoxifen-regulated Cre under the control of the osteocalcin promoter with mice in which an inactive form of the diphtheria toxin A chain was introduced into a ubiquitously expressed locus. Ablation of osteoblasts in adult mice profoundly affected glucose metabolism. In a manner similar to what is seen in the case of osteocalcin deficiency, a partial ablation of this cell population resulted in hypoinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, glucose intolerance, and decreased insulin sensitivity. However, and unlike what is seen in osteocalcin-deficient mice, osteoblast ablation also decreased gonadal fat and increased energy expenditure and the expression of resistin, an adipokine proposed to mediate insulin resistance. While administration of osteocalcin reversed (fully) the glucose intolerance and reinstated normal blood glucose and insulin levels, it only partially restored insulin sensitivity and did not affect the improved gonadal fat weight and energy expenditure in osteoblast-depleted mice. These observations not only strengthen the notion that osteoblasts are necessary for glucose homeostasis and energy expenditure but also suggest that in addition to osteocalcin, other osteoblast-derived hormones may contribute to the emerging function of the skeleton as a regulator of energy metabolism.
Blood vessel remodeling is crucial to the formation of the definitive vasculature, but little is known about the mechanisms controlling this process. We show that Delta-like ligand 4 (Dll4)/Notch pathway regulates vessel regression in normal pathologic conditions. Genetic and pharmacologic inhibition of Dll4/Notch prevented retinal capillary regression in the oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) model and during normal development. Deletion of the Notch-regulated ankyrin repeat protein, a negative regulator of the Notch pathway, produced an opposite phenotype. Inhibition of Dll4/Notch reduced vessel occlusion, maintaining blood flow that is essential for survival of microvessels. Dll4/Notch inhibition up-regulated the expression of vasodilators adrenomedullin and suppressed the expression of vasoconstrictor angiotensinogen. Angiotensin II induced rapid nonperfusion and regression of developing retinal capillaries, whereas Ace1 and AT1 inhibitors and adrenomedullin attenuated vasoobliteration in OIR, indicating that both pathways are involved in modulating vessel remodeling. In contrast, inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) did not result in a pervasive loss of retinal capillaries, demonstrating that reduced expression of VEGF-A is not the proximate cause of capillary regression in OIR. Modulation of VEGF-A and Dll4/Notch signaling produced distinct changes in blood vessel morphology and gene expression, indicating that these pathways can have largely independent functions in vascular remodeling.
It is fundamentally important that signaling gradients provide positional information to govern morphogenesis of multicellular organisms. Morphogen gradients can generate different cell types in specific spatial order at distinct threshold concentrations. However, it is largely unknown whether and how signaling gradients also control cell polarities by acting as global cues. Here, we show that Wnt signaling gradient provides directional information to a field of cells. Vangl2, a core component in planar cell polarity, forms Wnt-induced receptor complex with Ror2 to sense Wnt dosages. Wnts dose-dependently induce Vangl2 phosphorylation of serine/threonine residues and Vangl2 activities depend on its levels of phosphorylation. In the limb bud, Wnt5a signaling gradient controls limb elongation by establishing PCP in chondrocytes along the proximal-distal axis through regulating Vangl2 phosphorylation. Our studies have provided new insight to Robinow syndrome, Brachydactyly Type B1, and spinal bifida which are caused by mutations in human ROR2, WNT5A, or VANGL.
Inductive signals from adjacent tissues initiate differentiation within the somite. In this study, we used mouse embryos mutant for the BMP antagonists noggin (Nog) and gremlin 1 (Grem1) to characterize the effects of BMP signaling on the specification of the sclerotome. We confirmed reduction of Pax1 and Pax9 expression in Nog mutants, but found that Nog;Grem1 double mutants completely fail to initiate sclerotome development. Furthermore, Nog mutants that also lack one allele of Grem1 exhibit a dramatic reduction in axial skeleton relative to animals mutant for Nog alone. By contrast, Pax3, Myf5 and Lbx1 expression indicates that dermomyotome induction occurs in Nog;Grem1 double mutants. Neither conditional Bmpr1a mutation nor treatment with the BMP type I receptor inhibitor dorsomorphin expands sclerotome marker expression, suggesting that BMP antagonists do not have an instructive function in sclerotome specification. Instead, we hypothesize that Nog- and Grem1-mediated inhibition of BMP is permissive for hedgehog (Hh) signal-mediated sclerotome specification. In support of this model, we found that culturing Nog;Grem1 double-mutant embryos with dorsomorphin restores sclerotome, whereas Pax1 expression in smoothened (Smo) mutants is not rescued, suggesting that inhibition of BMP is insufficient to induce sclerotome in the absence of Hh signaling. Confirming the dominant inhibitory effect of BMP signaling, Pax1 expression cannot be rescued in Nog;Grem1 double mutants by forced activation of Smo. We conclude that Nog and Grem1 cooperate to maintain a BMP signaling-free zone that is a crucial prerequisite for Hh-mediated sclerotome induction.
The vasculature of the CNS is structurally and functionally distinct from that of other organ systems and is particularly prone to developmental abnormalities and hemorrhage. Although other embryonic tissues undergo primary vascularization, the developing nervous system is unique in that it is secondarily vascularized by sprouting angiogenesis from a surrounding perineural plexus. This sprouting angiogenesis requires the TGF-? and Wnt pathways because ablation of these pathways results in aberrant sprouting and hemorrhage. We have genetically deleted Gpr124, a member of the large family of long N-terminal group B G protein-coupled receptors, few members of which have identified ligands or well-defined biologic functions in mammals. We show that, in the developing CNS, Gpr124 is specifically expressed in the vasculature and is absolutely required for proper angiogenic sprouting into the developing neural tube. Embryos lacking Gpr124 exhibit vascular defects characterized by delayed vascular penetration, formation of pathological glomeruloid tufts within the CNS, and hemorrhage. In addition, they display defects in palate and lung development, two processes in which TGF-? and/or Wnt pathways also play important roles. We also show that TGF-? stimulates Gpr124 expression, and ablation of Gpr124 results in perturbed TGF-? pathway activation, suggesting roles for Gpr124 in modulating TGF-? signaling. These results represent a unique function attributed to a long N-terminal group B-type G protein-coupled receptor in a mammalian system.
Wnt ligands signal through ?-catenin and are critically involved in cell fate determination and stem/progenitor self-renewal. Wnts also signal through ?-catenin-independent or noncanonical pathways that regulate crucial events during embryonic development. The mechanism of noncanonical receptor activation and how Wnts trigger canonical as opposed to noncanonical signaling have yet to be elucidated. We demonstrate here that prototype canonical Wnt3a and noncanonical Wnt5a ligands specifically trigger completely unrelated endogenous coreceptors-LRP5/6 and Ror1/2, respectively-through a common mechanism that involves their Wnt-dependent coupling to the Frizzled (Fzd) coreceptor and recruitment of shared components, including dishevelled (Dvl), axin, and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3). We identify Ror2 Ser 864 as a critical residue phosphorylated by GSK3 and required for noncanonical receptor activation by Wnt5a, analogous to the priming phosphorylation of low-density receptor-related protein 6 (LRP6) in response to Wnt3a. Furthermore, this mechanism is independent of Ror2 receptor Tyr kinase functions. Consistent with this model of Wnt receptor activation, we provide evidence that canonical and noncanonical Wnts exert reciprocal pathway inhibition at the cell surface by competition for Fzd binding. Thus, different Wnts, through their specific coupling and phosphorylation of unrelated coreceptors, activate completely distinct signaling pathways.
Sclerostin is expressed by osteocytes and has catabolic effects on bone. It has been shown to antagonize bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and/or Wnt activity, although at present the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Consistent with previous findings, Sclerostin opposed direct Wnt3a-induced but not direct BMP7-induced responses when both ligand and antagonist were provided exogenously to cells. However, we found that when both proteins are expressed in the same cell, sclerostin can antagonize BMP signaling directly by inhibiting BMP7 secretion. Sclerostin interacts with both the BMP7 mature domain and pro-domain, leading to intracellular retention and proteasomal degradation of BMP7. Analysis of sclerostin knock-out mice revealed an inhibitory action of sclerostin on Wnt signaling in both osteoblasts and osteocytes in cortical and cancellous bones. BMP7 signaling was predominantly inhibited by sclerostin in osteocytes of the calcaneus and the cortical bone of the tibia. Our results suggest that sclerostin exerts its potent bone catabolic effects by antagonizing Wnt signaling in a paracrine and autocrine manner and antagonizing BMP signaling selectively in the osteocytes that synthesize simultaneously both sclerostin and BMP7 proteins.
Elongation of the digit rays resulting in the formation of a defined number of phalanges is a process poorly understood in mammals, whereas in the chicken distal mesenchymal bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling in the so-called phalanx-forming region (PFR) or digit crescent (DC) seems to be involved. The human brachydactylies (BDs) are inheritable conditions characterized by variable degrees of digit shortening, thus providing an ideal model to analyze the development and elongation of phalanges. We used a mouse model for BDB1 (Ror2(W749X/W749X)) lacking middle phalanges and show that a signaling center corresponding to the chick PFR exists in the mouse, which is diminished in BDB1 mice. This resulted in a strongly impaired elongation of the digit condensations due to reduced chondrogenic commitment of undifferentiated distal mesenchymal cells. We further show that a similar BMP-based mechanism accounts for digit shortening in a mouse model for the closely related condition BDA1 (Ihh(E95K/E95K)), altogether indicating the functional significance of the PFR in mammals. Genetic interaction experiments as well as pathway analysis in BDB1 mice suggest that Indian hedgehog and WNT/beta-catenin signaling, which we show is inhibited by receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 2 (ROR2) in distal limb mesenchyme, are acting upstream of BMP signaling in the PFR.
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), a member of the cysteine-rich 61 (Cyr 61), CTGF, nephroblastoma overexpressed (NOV) (CCN) family of proteins, is synthesized by osteoblasts, and its overexpression inhibits osteoblastogenesis and causes osteopenia. The global inactivation of Ctgf leads to defective endochondral bone formation and perinatal lethality; therefore, the consequences of Ctgf inactivation on the postnatal skeleton are not known. To study the function of CTGF, we generated Ctgf(+/LacZ) heterozygous null mice and tissue-specific null Ctgf mice by mating Ctgf conditional mice, where Ctgf is flanked by lox sequences with mice expressing the Cre recombinase under the control of the paired-related homeobox gene 1 (Prx1) enhancer (Prx1-Cre) or the osteocalcin promoter (Oc-Cre). Ctgf(+/LacZ) heterozygous mice exhibited transient osteopenia at 1 month of age secondary to decreased trabecular number. A similar osteopenic phenotype was observed in 1-month-old Ctgf conditional null male mice generated with Prx1-Cre, suggesting that the decreased trabecular number was secondary to impaired endochondral bone formation. In contrast, when the conditional deletion of Ctgf was achieved by Oc-Cre, an osteopenic phenotype was observed only in 6-month-old male mice. Osteoblast and osteoclast number, bone formation, and eroded surface were not affected in Ctgf heterozygous or conditional null mice. In conclusion, CTGF is necessary for normal skeletal development but to a lesser extent for postnatal skeletal homeostasis.
The glomerular basement membrane (GBM) is a key component of the filtering unit in the kidney. Mutations involving any of the collagen IV genes (COL4A3, COL4A4, and COL4A5) affect GBM assembly and cause Alport syndrome, a progressive hereditary kidney disease with no definitive therapy. Previously, we have demonstrated that the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonist uterine sensitization-associated gene-1 (USAG-1) negatively regulates the renoprotective action of BMP-7 in a mouse model of tubular injury during acute renal failure. Here, we investigated the role of USAG-1 in renal function in Col4a3-/- mice, which model Alport syndrome. Ablation of Usag1 in Col4a3-/- mice led to substantial attenuation of disease progression, normalization of GBM ultrastructure, preservation of renal function, and extension of life span. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that USAG-1 and BMP-7 colocalized in the macula densa in the distal tubules, lying in direct contact with glomerular mesangial cells. Furthermore, in cultured mesangial cells, BMP-7 attenuated and USAG-1 enhanced the expression of MMP-12, a protease that may contribute to GBM degradation. These data suggest that the pathogenetic role of USAG-1 in Col4a3-/- mice might involve crosstalk between kidney tubules and the glomerulus and that inhibition of USAG-1 may be a promising therapeutic approach for the treatment of Alport syndrome.
Overexpression of nephroblastoma overexpressed (Nov), a member of the Cyr 61, connective tissue growth factor, Nov family of proteins, inhibits osteoblastogenesis and causes osteopenia. The consequences of Nov inactivation on osteoblastogenesis and the postnatal skeleton are not known. To study the function of Nov, we inactivated Nov by homologous recombination. Nov null mice were maintained in a C57BL/6 genetic background after the removal of the neomycin selection cassette and compared with wild-type controls of identical genetic composition. Nov null mice were identified by genotyping and absent Nov mRNA in calvarial extracts and osteoblast cultures. Nov null mice did not exhibit developmental skeletal abnormalities or postnatal changes in weight, femoral length, body fat, or bone mineral density and appeared normal. Bone volume and trabecular number were decreased only in 1-month-old female mice. In older mice, after 7 months of age, osteoblast surface and bone formation were increased in females, and osteoclast and eroded surfaces were increased in male Nov null mice. Calvarial osteoblasts from Nov null mice displayed enhanced alkaline phosphatase activity, alkaline phosphatase mRNA, and transactivation of a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)/phosphorylated mothers against decapentaplegic reporter construct in response to BMP-2. Similar results were obtained after the down-regulation of Nov by RNA interference in ST-2 stromal and MC3T3 cells. Osteoclast number was increased in marrow stromal cell cultures from Nov null mice. Surface plasmon resonance demonstrated direct interactions between Nov and BMP-2. In conclusion, Nov sensitizes osteoblasts to BMP-2, but Nov is dispensable for the maintenance of bone mass.
The cloaca/urogenital sinus and its adjacent region differentiate into the urogenital/reproductive organs. Caudal regression syndrome (CRS; including mermaid syndrome), a type of severe cloacal malformation displays hindlimb fusion and urogenital organ defects, thus suggesting that such defects are caused by several morphogenetic alterations during early development. The attenuation of bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) signaling at the posterior primitive streak of embryos leads to the caudal dysmorphogenesis including the cloaca and fusion of both hindlimbs. Genetic tissue lineage studies indicate the presence of coordinated organogenesis. Hedgehog (HH)-responding cells derived from peri-cloacal mesenchyme (PCM) contribute to the urogenital/reproductive organs. These findings indicate the existence of developmental programs for the coordinated organogenesis of urogenital/reproductive tissues based on growth factor function and crosstalk.
The CreER(T2) for conditional gene inactivation has become increasingly used in reverse mouse genetics, which enables temporal regulation of Cre activity using a mutant estrogen binding domain (ER(T2)) to keep Cre inactive until the administration of tamoxifen. In this study, we present the severe toxicity of ubiquitously expressed CreER(T2) in adult mice and embryos. The toxicity of Cre recombinase or CreER(T2) in vitro or in vivo organisms are still less sufficiently recognized considering the common use of Cre/loxP system, though the toxicity might compromise the phenotypic analysis of the gene of interest. We analyzed two independent lines in which CreER(T2) is knocked-in into the Rosa26 locus (R26CreER(T2) mice), and both lines showed thymus atrophy, severe anemia, and illegitimate chromosomal rearrangement in hematopoietic cells after the administration of tamoxifen, and demonstrated complete recovery of hematological toxicity in adult mice. In the hematopoietic tissues in R26CreER(T2) mice, reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis was observed after the administration of tamoxifen. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that CreER(T2) toxicity affected several hematopoietic lineages, and that immature cells in these lineages tend to be more sensitive to the toxicity. In vitro culturing of hematopoietic cells from these mice further demonstrated the direct toxicity of CreER(T2) on growth and differentiation of hematopoietic cells. We further demonstrated the cleavage of the putative cryptic/pseudo loxP site in the genome after the activation of CreER(T2) in vivo. We discussed how to avoid the misinterpretation of the experimental results from potential toxic effects due to the activated CreER(T2).
Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) play multiple and important roles in embryonic development as well as in homeostasis and tissue repair in the adult. Bmp7 has been implicated in developmental disorders and in a variety of diseases, but functional studies to elucidate its role so far have been hampered, since mice deficient in BMP7 die around or just after birth. To facilitate such studies, we generated mice in which the Bmp7 gene has been rendered conditional-null by flanking its first coding exon with loxP sites. To this end, we adapted the two-loxP site strategy to Bacterial Homologous Recombination to create a Bacterial Artificial Chromosome-based vector for direct targeting in mouse embryonic stem cells. Functional analysis showed that in vivo, the conditional-null Bmp7(flx/flx) mice are phenotypically wild type, whereas post Cre-mediated recombination, the resulting Bmp7(delta/delta) mice are phenotypically null. Thus, this study validates the usefulness of the Bmp7(flx/flx) mouse which in turn should empower in vivo studies aimed at elucidating the roles of Bmp7 in postnatal development, homeostasis and disease.
The factors necessary for normal pancreatic islet morphogenesis have not been well characterized. Here we report that connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is involved in the establishment of normal islet endocrine cell ratio and architecture. CTGF is a secreted protein known to modulate several growth factor-signaling pathways including TGF-beta, BMP, and Wnt. Although its role in pancreatic diseases such as pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer are well documented, a role for CTGF in normal pancreas development and function has heretofore not been examined. Using a lacZ-tagged CTGF allele, we describe for the first time the expression pattern of CTGF in the developing pancreas and the requirement of CTGF for normal islet morphogenesis and embryonic beta-cell proliferation. CTGF is highly expressed in pancreatic ductal epithelium and vascular endothelium, as well as at lower levels in developing insulin(+) cells, but becomes down-regulated in beta-cells soon after birth. Pancreata from CTGF null embryos have an increase in glucagon(+) cells with a concomitant decrease in insulin(+) cells, and show defects in islet morphogenesis. Loss of CTGF also results in a dramatic decrease in beta-cell proliferation at late gestation. Unlike CTGF null embryos, CTGF heterozygotes survive past birth and exhibit a range of islet phenotypes, including an intermingling of islet cell types, increased number of glucagon(+) cells, and beta-cell hypertrophy.
The Conditional by Inversion (COIN) method for engineering conditional alleles relies on an invertible optimized gene trap-like element, the COIN module, for imparting conditionality. The COIN module contains an optimized 3 splice site-polyadenylation signal pair, but is inserted antisense to the target gene and therefore does not alter transcription, until it is inverted by Cre recombinase. In order to make COIN applicable to all protein-coding genes, the COIN module has been engineered within an artificial intron, enabling insertion into an exon.
Sirenomelia, also known as mermaid syndrome, is a developmental malformation of the caudal body characterized by leg fusion and associated anomalies of pelvic/urogenital organs including bladder, kidney, rectum and external genitalia. Most affected infants are stillborn, and the few born alive rarely survive beyond the neonatal period. Despite the many clinical studies of sirenomelia in humans, little is known about the pathogenic developmental mechanisms that cause the complex array of phenotypes observed. Here, we provide new evidences that reduced BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Protein) signaling disrupts caudal body formation in mice and phenocopies sirenomelia. Bmp4 is strongly expressed in the developing caudal body structures including the peri-cloacal region and hindlimb field. In order to address the function of Bmp4 in caudal body formation, we utilized a conditional Bmp4 mouse allele (Bmp4(flox/flox)) and the Isl1 (Islet1)-Cre mouse line. Isl1-Cre is expressed in the peri-cloacal region and the developing hindimb field. Isl1Cre;Bmp4(flox/flox) conditional mutant mice displayed sirenomelia phenotypes including hindlimb fusion and pelvic/urogenital organ dysgenesis. Genetic lineage analyses indicate that Isl1-expressing cells contribute to both the aPCM (anterior Peri-Cloacal Mesenchyme) and the hindlimb bud. We show Bmp4 is essential for the aPCM formation independently with Shh signaling. Furthermore, we show Bmp4 is a major BMP ligand for caudal body formation as shown by compound genetic analyses of Bmp4 and Bmp7. Taken together, this study reveals coordinated development of caudal body structures including pelvic/urogenital organs and hindlimb orchestrated by BMP signaling in Isl1-expressing cells. Our study offers new insights into the pathogenesis of sirenomelia.
In 2007, the International Knockout Mouse Consortium (IKMC) made the ambitious promise to generate mutations in virtually every protein-coding gene of the mouse genome in a concerted worldwide action. Now, 5 years later, the IKMC members have developed high-throughput gene trapping and, in particular, gene-targeting pipelines and generated more than 17,400 mutant murine embryonic stem (ES) cell clones and more than 1,700 mutant mouse strains, most of them conditional. A common IKMC web portal (www.knockoutmouse.org) has been established, allowing easy access to this unparalleled biological resource. The IKMC materials considerably enhance functional gene annotation of the mammalian genome and will have a major impact on future biomedical research.
The Wnt antagonist Sost has emerged as a key regulator of bone homeostasis through the modulation of Lrp4/5/6 Wnt coreceptors. In humans, lack of Sclerostin causes sclerosteosis and van Buchem (VB) disease, two generalized skeletal hyperostosis disorders that result from hyperactive Wnt signaling. Unlike sclerosteosis, VB patients lack SOST coding mutations but carry a homozygous 52 kb noncoding deletion that is essential for the transcriptional activation of SOST in bone. We recently identified a putative bone enhancer, ECR5, in the VB deletion region, and showed that the transcriptional activity of ECR5 is controlled by Mef2C transcription factor in vitro. Here we report that mice lacking ECR5 or Mef2C through Col1-Cre osteoblast/osteocyte-specific ablation result in high bone mass (HBM) due to elevated bone formation rates. We conclude that the absence of the Sost-specific long-range regulatory element ECR5 causes VB disease in rodents, and that Mef2C is the main transcription factor responsible for ECR5-dependent Sost transcriptional activation in the adult skeleton.
Current endeavors in the type 2 diabetes (T2D) field include gaining a better understanding of extracellular signaling pathways that regulate pancreatic islet function. Recent data suggest that both Bmp and Wnt pathways are operative in pancreatic islets and play a positive role in insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis. Our laboratory found the dual Bmp and Wnt antagonist Sostdc1 to be upregulated in a mouse model of islet dysmorphogenesis and nonimmune-mediated lean diabetes. Because Bmp signaling has been proposed to enhance ?-cell function, we evaluated the role of Sostdc1 in adult islet function using animals in which Sostdc1 was globally deleted. While Sostdc1-null animals exhibited no pancreas development phenotype, a subset of mutants exhibited enhanced insulin secretion and improved glucose homeostasis compared with control animals after 12-wk exposure to high-fat diet. Loss of Sostdc1 in the setting of metabolic stress results in altered expression of Bmp-responsive genes in islets but did not affect expression of Wnt target genes, suggesting that Sostdc1 primarily regulates the Bmp pathway in the murine pancreas. Furthermore, our data indicate that removal of Sostdc1 enhances the downregulation of the closely related Bmp inhibitors Ctgf and Gremlin in islets after 8-wk exposure to high-fat diet. These data imply that Sostdc1 regulates expression of these inhibitors and provide a means by which Sostdc1-null animals show enhanced insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis. Our studies provide insights into Bmp pathway regulation in the endocrine pancreas and reveal new avenues for improving ?-cell function under metabolic stress.
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