The central nervous system (CNS) requires a tightly controlled environment free of toxins and pathogens to provide the proper chemical composition for neural function. This environment is maintained by the 'blood-brain barrier' (BBB), which is composed of blood vessels whose endothelial cells display specialized tight junctions and extremely low rates of transcellular vesicular transport (transcytosis). In concert with pericytes and astrocytes, this unique brain endothelial physiological barrier seals the CNS and controls substance influx and efflux. Although BBB breakdown has recently been associated with initiation and perpetuation of various neurological disorders, an intact BBB is a major obstacle for drug delivery to the CNS. A limited understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control BBB formation has hindered our ability to manipulate the BBB in disease and therapy. Here we identify mechanisms governing the establishment of a functional BBB. First, using a novel tracer-injection method for embryos, we demonstrate spatiotemporal developmental profiles of BBB functionality and find that the mouse BBB becomes functional at embryonic day 15.5 (E15.5). We then screen for BBB-specific genes expressed during BBB formation, and find that major facilitator super family domain containing 2a (Mfsd2a) is selectively expressed in BBB-containing blood vessels in the CNS. Genetic ablation of Mfsd2a results in a leaky BBB from embryonic stages through to adulthood, but the normal patterning of vascular networks is maintained. Electron microscopy examination reveals a dramatic increase in CNS-endothelial-cell vesicular transcytosis in Mfsd2a(-/-) mice, without obvious tight-junction defects. Finally we show that Mfsd2a endothelial expression is regulated by pericytes to facilitate BBB integrity. These findings identify Mfsd2a as a key regulator of BBB function that may act by suppressing transcytosis in CNS endothelial cells. Furthermore, our findings may aid in efforts to develop therapeutic approaches for CNS drug delivery.
The low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor-related protein 2 (LRP2) is a multifunctional cell-surface receptor expressed in the embryonic neuroepithelium. Loss of LRP2 in the developing murine central nervous system (CNS) causes impaired closure of the rostral neural tube at embryonic stage (E) 9.0. Similar neural tube defects (NTDs) have previously been attributed to impaired folate metabolism in mice. We therefore asked whether LRP2 might be required for the delivery of folate to neuroepithelial cells during neurulation. Uptake assays in whole-embryo cultures showed that LRP2-deficient neuroepithelial cells are unable to mediate the uptake of folate bound to soluble folate receptor 1 (sFOLR1). Consequently, folate concentrations are significantly reduced in Lrp2(-/-) embryos compared with control littermates. Moreover, the folic-acid-dependent gene Alx3 is significantly downregulated in Lrp2 mutants. In conclusion, we show that LRP2 is essential for cellular folate uptake in the developing neural tube, a crucial step for proper neural tube closure.
Myc proteins control cell proliferation, cell cycle progression, and apoptosis, and play important roles in cancer as well in establishment of pluripotency. Here we investigated the control of myc gene expression by the Pou5f1/Oct4 pluripotency factor in the early zebrafish embryo. We analyzed the expression of all known zebrafish Myc family members, myca, mycb, mych, mycl1a, mycl1b, and mycn, by whole mount in situ hybridization during blastula and gastrula stages in wildtype and maternal plus zygotic pou5f1 mutant (MZspg) embryos, as well as by quantitative PCR and in time series microarray data. We found that the broad blastula and gastrula stage mych expression, as well as late gastrula stage mycl1b expression, both depend on Pou5f1 activity. We analyzed ChIP-Seq data and found that both Pou5f1 and Sox2 bind to mych and mycl1b control regions. The regulation of mych by Pou5f1 appears to be direct transcriptional activation, as overexpression of a Pou5f1 activator fusion protein in MZspg embryos induced strong mych expression even when translation of zygotically expressed mRNAs was suppressed. We further showed that MZspg embryos develop enhanced apoptosis already during early gastrula stages, when apoptosis was not be detected in wildtype embryos. However, Mych knockdown alone did not induce early apoptosis, suggesting potentially redundant action of several early expressed myc genes, or combination of several pathways affected in MZspg. Experimental mych overexpression in MZspg embryos did significantly, but not completely suppress the apoptosis phenotype. Similarly, p53 knockdown only partially suppressed apoptosis in MZspg gastrula embryos. However, combined knockdown of p53 and overexpression of Mych completely rescued the MZspg apoptosis phenotype. These results reveal that Mych has anti-apoptotic activity in the early zebrafish embryo, and that p53-dependent and Myc pathways are likely to act in parallel to control apoptosis at these stages.
Low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 2 (LRP2) is a multifunctional cell surface receptor conserved from nematodes to humans. In mammals, it acts as regulator of sonic hedgehog and bone morphogenetic protein pathways in patterning of the embryonic forebrain and as a clearance receptor in the adult kidney. Little is known about activities of this LRP in other phyla. Here, we extend the functional elucidation of LRP2 to zebrafish as a model organism of receptor (dys)function. We demonstrate that expression of Lrp2 in embryonic and larval fish recapitulates the patterns seen in mammalian brain and kidney. Furthermore, we studied the consequence of receptor deficiencies in lrp2 and in lrp2b, a homologue unique to fish, using ENU mutagenesis or morpholino knockdown. While receptor-deficient zebrafish suffer from overt renal resorption deficiency, their brain development proceeds normally, suggesting evolutionary conservation of receptor functions in pronephric duct clearance but not in patterning of the teleost forebrain.
Sonic hedgehog (SHH) is a regulator of forebrain development that acts through its receptor, patched 1. However, little is known about cellular mechanisms at neurulation, whereby SHH from the prechordal plate governs specification of the rostral diencephalon ventral midline (RDVM), a major forebrain organizer. We identified LRP2, a member of the LDL receptor gene family, as a component of the SHH signaling machinery in the RDVM. LRP2 acts as an apical SHH-binding protein that sequesters SHH in its target field and controls internalization and cellular trafficking of SHH/patched 1 complexes. Lack of LRP2 in mice and in cephalic explants results in failure to respond to SHH, despite functional expression of patched 1 and smoothened, whereas overexpression of LRP2 variants in cells increases SHH signaling capacity. Our data identify a critical role for LRP2 in SHH signaling and reveal the molecular mechanism underlying forebrain anomalies in mice and patients with Lrp2 defects.
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