Molecular Mechanisms of Wnt8a Regulation: Insights Into Vertebrate Mesoderm Development and Patterning
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Vertebrate wnt8a occupies a position at a crossroads linking anteroposterior and dorsoventral axis patterning. While functional aspects of wnt8a are beginning to be understood, the regulation of wnt8a expression and its relationship to mesoderm induction and maintenance pathways are unclear. Three inputs that control wnt8a expression in the zebrafish embryonic margin have been identified: the Brachyury-related T-box transcription factors No tail a (Ntla) and No tail b (Ntlb, previously called Bra) and the maternal zinc-finger transcription factor Zbtb4 (previously called Kzp) are known direct regulators, and Nodal signaling is genetically upstream of wnt8a expression. The transcriptional mechanisms by which the wnt8a locus integrates these diverse temporal inputs are not yet known. We have generated zebrafish transgenic for a modified genomic PAC clone that expresses EGFP from the wnt8a locus. The EGFP reporter transgene is expressed in a pattern nearly identical to wnt8a, including maternal deposition, expression in the ventrolateral mesoderm and in the yolk syncytial layer. Using this transgenic line, we identified two phases of wnt8a transcriptional regulation in zebrafish: phase I comprises Nodal-dependent activation during early gastrulation and phase II comprises No tail (Ntl)-dependent regulation from mid to late gastrula stages onwards. These phases mirror the transition from Nodal-dependent mesoderm induction to Ntl-dependent mesoderm maintenance. To further understand how the wnt8a locus integrates these signals to achieve its transcriptional output, we analyzed upstream cis-regulatory regions through transgenic reporter assays. We identified three promoters in the bicistronic wnt8a locus, two of which drive expression of the upstream coding region (wnt8a.1). We identified two regulatory regions, proximal and distal: the proximal regulatory region contains a mesodermal enhancer with potential binding sites for FoxH1 and Ntl that is required for both the Nodal and Ntl responses. Phase I expression requires Nodal signaling through the mesoderm enhancer in combination with the distal regulatory region, which bears a Zbtb4 consensus binding site. Phase II expression requires Ntl regulation of the mesoderm enhancer in the context of the proximal regulatory region. The distal regulatory region negatively impacts phase II expression driven by the proximal regulatory region, indicating a complex relationship of regulatory elements.
Narayanan, Anand (2012). Molecular Mechanisms of Wnt8a Regulation: Insights Into Vertebrate Mesoderm Development and Patterning. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from