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Dynamic alterations in gene expression after Wnt-mediated induction of avian neural crest

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Abstract

The Wnt signaling pathway is important in the formation of neural crest cells in many vertebrates, but the downstream targets of neural crest induction by Wnt are largely unknown. Here, we examined quantitative changes in gene expression regulated by Wnt-mediated neural crest induction using quantitative PCR (QPCR). Induction was recapitulated in vitro by adding soluble Wnt to intermediate neural plate tissue cultured in collagen, and induced versus control tissue were assayed using gene-specific primers at times corresponding to premigratory (18 and 24 h) or early (36 h) stages of crest migration. The results show that Wnt signaling up-regulates in a distinct temporal pattern the expression of several genes normally expressed in the dorsal neural tube (slug, Pax3, Msx1, FoxD3, cadherin 6B) at "premigratory" stages. While slug is maintained in early migrating crest cells, Pax3, FoxD3, Msx1 and cadherin 6B all are down-regulated by the start of migration. These results differ from the temporal profile of these genes in response to the addition of recombinant BMP4, where gene expression seems to be maintained. Interestingly, expression of rhoB is unchanged or even decreased in response to Wnt-mediated induction at all times examined, though it is up-regulated by BMP signals. The temporal QPCR profiles in our culture paradigm approximate in vivo expression patterns of these genes before neural crest migration, and are consistent with Wnt being an initial neural crest inducer with additional signals like BMP and other factors maintaining expression of these genes in vivo. Our results are the first to quantitatively describe changes in gene expression in response to a Wnt or BMP signal during transformation of a neural tube cell into a migratory neural crest cell.

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