1] Developmental Genetics, Department Biomedicine, University of Basel, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland . 1] Developmental Genetics, Department Biomedicine, University of Basel, CH-4058 Basel, Switze...
The large spectrum of limb morphologies reflects the wide evolutionary diversification of the basic pentadactyl pattern in tetrapods. In even-toed ungulates (artiodactyls, including cattle), limbs are adapted for running as a consequence of progressive reduction of their distal skeleton to symmetrical and elongated middle digits with hoofed phalanges. Here we analyse bovine embryos to establish that polarized gene expression is progressively lost during limb development in comparison to the mouse. Notably, the transcriptional upregulation of the Ptch1 gene, which encodes a Sonic hedgehog (SHH) receptor, is disrupted specifically in the bovine limb bud mesenchyme. This is due to evolutionary alteration of a Ptch1 cis-regulatory module, which no longer responds to graded SHH signalling during bovine handplate development. Our study provides a molecular explanation for the loss of digit asymmetry in bovine limb buds and suggests that modifications affecting the Ptch1 cis-regulatory landscape have contributed to evolutionary diversification of artiodactyl limbs.
School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland. School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland. School of Life Sc...
Hox genes are essential regulators of embryonic development. Their step-wise transcriptional activation follows their genomic topology and the various states of activation are subsequently memorized into domains of progressively overlapping gene products. We have analyzed the 3D chromatin organization of Hox clusters during their early activation in vivo, using high-resolution circular chromosome conformation capture. Initially, Hox clusters are organized as single chromatin compartments containing all genes and bivalent chromatin marks. Transcriptional activation is associated with a dynamic bi-modal 3D organization, whereby the genes switch autonomously from an inactive to an active compartment. These local 3D dynamics occur within a framework of constitutive interactions within the surrounding Topological Associated Domains, indicating that this regulation process is mostly cluster intrinsic. The step-wise progression in time is fixed at various body levels and thus can account for the chromatin architectures previously described at a later stage for different anterior to posterior levels.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02557.001.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, NYU Neuroscience Institute, Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA. Department of Biology, New Y...
The emergence of limb-driven locomotor behaviors was a key event in the evolution of vertebrates and fostered the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life. We show that the generation of limb-projecting lateral motor column (LMC) neurons in mice relies on a transcriptional autoregulatory module initiated via transient activity of multiple genes within the HoxA and HoxC clusters. Repression of this module at thoracic levels restricts expression of LMC determinants, thus dictating LMC position relative to the limbs. This suppression is mediated by a key regulatory domain that is specifically found in the Hoxc9 proteins of appendage-bearing vertebrates. The profile of Hoxc9 expression inversely correlates with LMC position in land vertebrates and likely accounts for the absence of LMC neurons in limbless species such as snakes. Thus, modulation of both Hoxc9 protein function and Hoxc9 gene expression likely contributed to evolutionary transitions between undulatory and ambulatory motor circuit connectivity programs.
School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Federale, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland. School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Federale, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland; Department of Genetics and Evol...
Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland. School of Life Sciences, Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, Switzerland. School of Life Sciences, Federal In...
The evolution of tetrapod limbs from fish fins enabled the conquest of land by vertebrates and thus represents a key step in evolution. Despite the use of comparative gene expression analyses, critical aspects of this transformation remain controversial, in particular the origin of digits. Hoxa and Hoxd genes are essential for the specification of the different limb segments and their functional abrogation leads to large truncations of the appendages. Here we show that the selective transcription of mouse Hoxa genes in proximal and distal limbs is related to a bimodal higher order chromatin structure, similar to that reported for Hoxd genes, thus revealing a generic regulatory strategy implemented by both gene clusters during limb development. We found the same bimodal chromatin architecture in fish embryos, indicating that the regulatory mechanism used to pattern tetrapod limbs may predate the divergence between fish and tetrapods. However, when assessed in mice, both fish regulatory landscapes triggered transcription in proximal rather than distal limb territories, supporting an evolutionary scenario whereby digits arose as tetrapod novelties through genetic retrofitting of preexisting regulatory landscapes. We discuss the possibility to consider regulatory circuitries, rather than expression patterns, as essential parameters to define evolutionary synapomorphies.
National Research Center 'Frontiers in Genetics', Geneva, Switzerland ; School of Life Sciences, Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland.
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are essential for the repression of key factors during early development. In Drosophila, the polycomb repressive complexes (PRC) associate with defined polycomb response DNA elements (PREs). In mammals, however, the mechanisms underlying polycomb recruitment at targeted loci are poorly understood. We have used an in vivo approach to identify DNA sequences of importance for the proper recruitment of polycomb proteins at the HoxD locus. We report that various genomic re-arrangements of the gene cluster do not strongly affect PRC2 recruitment and that relatively small polycomb interacting sequences appear necessary and sufficient to confer polycomb recognition and targeting to ectopic loci. In addition, a high GC content, while not sufficient to recruit PRC2, may help its local spreading. We discuss the importance of PRC2 recruitment over Hox gene clusters in embryonic stem cells, for their subsequent coordinated transcriptional activation during development.
Hubrecht Institute-KNAW and University Medical Center Utrecht, Uppsalalaan 8, 3584 CT, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
How a complex animal can arise from a fertilized egg is one of the oldest and most fascinating questions of biology, the answer to which is encoded in the genome. Body shape and organ development, and their integration into a functional organism all depend on the precise expression of genes in space and time. The orchestration of transcription relies mostly on surrounding control sequences such as enhancers, millions of which form complex regulatory landscapes in the non-coding genome. Recent research shows that high-order chromosome structures make an important contribution to enhancer functionality by triggering their physical interactions with target genes.
School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Federale, Lausanne CH-1015, Switzerland.
Hox genes are required for the development of the intestinal cecum, a major organ of plant-eating species. We have analyzed the transcriptional regulation of Hoxd genes in cecal buds and show that they are controlled by a series of enhancers located in a gene desert flanking the HoxD cluster. The start site of two opposite long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), Hotdog and Twin of Hotdog, selectively contacts the expressed Hoxd genes in the framework of a topological domain, coinciding with robust transcription of these genes during cecum budding. Both lncRNAs are specifically transcribed in the cecum, albeit bearing no detectable function in trans. Hedgehogs have kept this regulatory potential despite the absence of the cecum, suggesting that these mechanisms are used in other developmental situations. In this context, we discuss the implementation of a common "budding toolkit" between the cecum and the limbs.
National Research Centre Frontiers in Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Frale (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland.
Developmentally regulated genes are often controlled by distant enhancers, silencers and insulators, to implement their correct transcriptional programs. In recent years, the development of 3C and derived techniques (4C, 5C, HiC, ChIA-PET, etc.) has confirmed that chromatin looping is an important mechanism for the transfer of regulatory information in mammalian cells. At many developmentally regulated gene loci, transcriptional activation is indeed accompanied by the formation of chromatin loops between genes and distant enhancers. Similarly, dynamic looping between insulator elements and changes in local 3D organization may be observed upon variation in transcriptional activity. Chromatin looping also occurs at silent gene loci, where its function remains less understood. In lineage-committed cells, partial 3D configurations are detected at loci that are activated at later stages. However, these partial configurations usually lack promoter-enhancer loops that accompany transcriptional activation, suggesting they have structural functions. Definitive evidence for a repressive role of chromatin looping is still lacking. Chromatin loops have been reported at repressed loci but, alternatively, they may act as a distraction for active loops. Together, these mechanisms allow fine-tuning of regulatory programs, thus providing further diversity in the transcriptional control of developmentally regulated gene loci. WIREs Dev Biol 2013, 2:615-630. doi: 10.1002/wdev.103 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website. The authors declare no conflict of interest.
School of Life Sciences, Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) Lausanne, Switzerland.
The evolution of chordates was accompanied by critical anatomical innovations in craniofacial development, along with the emergence of neural crest cells. The potential of these cells to implement a craniofacial program in part depends upon the (non-)expression of Hox genes. For instance, the development of jaws requires the inhibition of Hox genes function in the first pharyngeal arch. In contrast, Hox gene products induce craniofacial structures in more caudal territories. To further investigate which Hox gene clusters are involved in this latter role, we generated HoxA;HoxB cluster double mutant animals in cranial neural crest cells. We observed the appearance of a supernumerary dentary-like bone with an endochondral ossification around a neo-Meckel's cartilage matrix and an attachment of neo-muscle demonstrating that HoxB genes enhance the phenotype induced by the deletion of the HoxA cluster alone. In addition, a cervical and hypertrophic thymus was associated with the supernumerary dentary-like bone, which may reflect its ancestral position near the filtrating system. Altogether these results show that the HoxA and HoxB clusters cooperated during evolution to lead to present craniofacial diversity.