Monday, June 25, 2007

Establishment of the Body Axes


Establishment of the Body Axes
Establishment of the body axes, anteroposterior, dorsoventral, and left-right,
takes place before and during the period of gastrulation. The anteroposterior
axis is signaled by cells at the anterior (cranial) margin of the embryonic disc.
This area, the anterior visceral endoderm (AVE), expresses genes essential for
head formation, including the transcription factors OTX2, LIM1, and HESX1
and the secreted factor cerberus. These genes establish the cranial end of the
embryo before gastrulation. The primitive streak itself is initiated and maintained
by expression of Nodal, a member of the transforming growth factor β
(TGF-β) family (Fig. 4.5). Once the streak is formed, a number of genes regulate
formation of dorsal and ventral mesoderm and head and tail structures.
Another member of the TGF-β family, bone morphogenetic protein-4 (BMP-
4) is secreted throughout the embryonic disc (Fig. 4.5). In the presence of this
protein and fibroblast growth factor (FGF), mesoderm will be ventralized to
contribute to kidneys (intermediate mesoderm), blood, and body wall mesoderm
(lateral plate mesoderm). In fact, all mesoderm would be ventralized if
the activity of BMP-4 were not blocked by other genes expressed in the node.
For this reason, the node is the organizer. It was given that designation byHans Spemann, who first described this activity in the dorsal lip of the blastopore,
a structure analogous to the node, in Xenopus embryos. Thus, chordin
(activated by the transcription factor Goosecoid ), noggin, and follistatin antagonize
the activity of BMP-4. As a result, cranial mesoderm is dorsalized into
notochord, somites, and somitomeres (Fig. 4.5). Later, these three genes are
expressed in the notochord and are important in neural induction in the cranial
region.
As mentioned, Nodal is involved in initiating and maintaining the primitive
streak (Fig. 4.6). Similarly, HNF-3β maintains the node and later induces
regional specificity in the forebrain and midbrain areas. Without HNF-3β, embryos
fail to gastrulate properly and lack forebrain and midbrain structures. As
mentioned previously, Goosecoid activates inhibitors of BMP-4 and contributes
to regulation of head development. Overexpression or underexpression of this
gene results in severe malformations of the head region, including duplications
(Fig. 4.7).
Regulation of dorsal mesoderm formation in mid and caudal regions of the
embryo is controlled by the Brachyury (T) gene (Fig. 4.8). Thus, mesoderm
formation in these regions depends on this gene product, and its absence
results in shortening of the embryonic axis (caudal dysgenesis; see p. 80).
The degree of shortening depends upon the time at which the protein becomes
deficient.
Left-right sidedness, also established early in development, is orchestrated
by a cascade of genes. When the primitive streak appears, fibroblast growth
factor 8 (FGF-8) is secreted by cells in the node and primitive streak andinduces expression of Nodal but only on the left side of the embryo (Fig. 4.9A).
Later, as the neural plate is induced, FGF-8 maintains Nodal expression in the
lateral plate mesoderm (Fig. 4.10), as well as Lefty-2, and both of these genes
upregulate PITX2, a transcription factor responsible for establishing left sidedness
(Fig. 4.9B). Simultaneously, Lefty-1 is expressed on the left side of the
floor plate of the neural tube and may act as a barrier to prevent left-sided signals
from crossing over. Sonic hedgehog (SHH ) may also function in this role
as well as serving as a repressor for left sided gene expression on the right. The
Brachyury(T) gene, another growth factor secreted by the notochord, is also
essential for expression of Nodal, Lefty-1, and Lefty-2 (Fig. 4.9B). Genes regulating
right-sided development are not as well defined, although expression of thetranscription factor NKX 3.2 is restricted to the right lateral plate mesoderm
and probably regulates effector genes responsible for establishing the right side.
Why the cascade is initiated on the left remains a mystery, but the reason may
involve cilia on cells in the node that beat to create a gradient of FGF-8 toward
the left. Indeed, abnormalities in cilia-related proteins result in laterality defects
in mice and some humans with these defects have abnormal ciliary function
.

1 comment:

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