J. Dev. Biol.2016, 4(2), 15; doi:10.3390/jdb4020015 - published 26 March 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Hoxa2 is an evolutionarily conserved developmental regulatory gene that functions to specify rhombomere (r) and pharyngeal arch (PA) identities throughout the Osteichthyes. Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) hoxa2a, like orthologous Hoxa2 genes from other osteichthyans, is expressed during embryogenesis in r2–7 and PA2-7, whereas the paralogous medaka pseudogene, ψhoxa2b, is expressed in noncanonical Hoxa2 domains, including the pectoral fin buds. To understand the evolution of cis-regulatory element (CRE) control of gene expression, we conducted eGFP reporter gene expression studies with extensive functional mapping of several conserved CREs upstream of medaka hoxa2a and ψhoxa2b in transient and stable-line transgenic medaka embryos. The CREs tested were previously shown to contribute to directing mouse Hoxa2 gene expression in r3, r5, and PA2-4. Our results reveal the presence of sequence elements embedded in the medaka hoxa2a and ψhoxa2b upstream enhancer regions (UERs) that mediate expression in r4 and the PAs (hoxa2a r4/CNCC element) or in r3–7 and the PAs ψhoxa2b r3–7/CNCC element), respectively. Further, these elements were shown to be highly conserved among osteichthyans, which suggests that the r4 specifying element embedded in the UER of Hoxa2 is a deeply rooted rhombomere specifying element and the activity of this element has been modified by the evolution of flanking sequences that redirect its activity to alternative developmental compartments.
J. Dev. Biol.2016, 4(2), 13; doi:10.3390/jdb4020013 - published 25 March 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: A critical position in the developmental hierarchy is occupied by the Hox genes, which encode transcription factors. Hox genes are crucial in specifying regional identity along the embryonic axes and in regulating morphogenesis. In mouse, targeted mutations of Hox genes cause skeletal transformations and organ defects that can impair viability. Here, we present the current knowledge about the Hoxa5 gene, a paradigm for the function and the regulation of Hox genes. The phenotypic survey of Hoxa5−/− mice has unveiled its critical role in the regional specification of the skeleton and in organogenesis. Most Hoxa5−/− mice die at birth from respiratory distress due to tracheal and lung dysmorphogenesis and impaired diaphragm innervation. The severity of the phenotype establishes that Hoxa5 plays a predominant role in lung organogenesis versus other Hox genes. Hoxa5 also governs digestive tract morphogenesis, thyroid and mammary glands development, and ovary homeostasis. Deregulated Hoxa5 expression is reported in cancers, indicating Hoxa5 involvement in tumor predisposition and progression. The dynamic Hoxa5 expression profile is under the transcriptional control of multiple cis-acting sequences and trans-acting regulators. It is also modulated by epigenetic mechanisms, implicating chromatin modifications and microRNAs. Finally, lncRNAs originating from alternative splicing and distal promoters encompass the Hoxa5 locus.
J. Dev. Biol.2016, 4(2), 14; doi:10.3390/jdb4020014 - published 24 March 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Congenital heart defects (CHD) are the leading cause of death in the first year of life. Over the past 20 years, much effort has been focused on unraveling the genetic bases of CHD. In particular, studies in human genetics coupled with those of model organisms have provided valuable insights into the gene regulatory networks underlying CHD pathogenesis. Hox genes encode transcription factors that are required for the patterning of the anterior–posterior axis in the embryo. In this review, we focus on the emerging role of anteriorly expressed Hox genes (Hoxa1, Hoxb1, and Hoxa3) in cardiac development, specifically their contribution to patterning of cardiac progenitor cells and formation of the great arteries. Recent evidence regarding the cooperative regulation of heart development by Hox proteins with members of the TALE-class of homeodomain proteins such as Pbx and Meis transcription factors is also discussed. These findings are highly relevant to human pathologies as they pinpoint new genes that increase susceptibility to cardiac anomalies and provide novel mechanistic insights into CHD.
J. Dev. Biol.2016, 4(1), 12; doi:10.3390/jdb4010012 - published 19 March 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Hox genes are regulators of animal embryonic development. Changes in the number and sequence of Hox genes as well as in their expression patterns have been related to the evolution of the body plan. Lophotrochozoa is a clade of Protostomia characterized by several phyla which show a wide morphological diversity. Despite that the works summarized in this review emphasize the fragmentary nature of the data available regarding the presence and expression of Hox genes, they also offer interesting insight into the evolution of the Hox cluster and the role played by Hox genes in several phyla. However, the number of genes involved in the cluster of the lophotrochozoan ancestor is still a question of debate. The data presented here suggest that at least nine genes were present while two other genes, Lox4 and Post-2, may either have been present in the ancestor or may have arisen as a result of duplication in the Brachiopoda-Mollusca-Annelida lineage. Spatial and temporal collinearity is a feature of Hox gene expression which was probably present in the ancestor of deuterostomes and protostomes. However, in Lophotrochozoa, it has been detected in only a few species belonging to Annelida and Mollusca.
J. Dev. Biol.2016, 4(1), 11; doi:10.3390/jdb4010011 - published 20 February 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Drug-eluting vascular prostheses represent a new direction in vascular surgery to reduce early thrombosis and late intimal hyperplasia for small calibre grafts. Subcutaneous implantation in rats is a rapid and cost-effective screening model to assess the drug-elution effect and could, to some extent, be useful to forecast results for vascular prostheses. We compared biological and histological responses to scaffolds in different implantation sites. Polycaprolactone (PCL), paclitaxel-loaded PCL (PCL-PTX) and dexamethasone-loaded PCL (PCL-DXM) electrospun scaffolds were implanted subcutaneously and in an infrarenal abdominal aortic model in rats for up to 12 weeks. At the conclusion of the study, a histological analysis was performed. Cellular graft invasion revealed differences in the progression of cellular infiltration between PCL-PTX and PCL/PCL-DXM groups in both models. Cell infiltration increased over time in the aortic model compared to the subcutaneous model for all groups. Cell counting revealed major differences in fibroblast, macrophage and giant cell graft colonisation in all groups and models over time. Macrophages and giant cells increased in the PCL aortic model; whereas in the subcutaneous model these cell types increased only after three weeks or even decreased in the drug-eluting PCL groups. Other major findings were observed only in the aortic replacement such as extracellular matrix deposition and neo-angiogenesis. The subcutaneous implant model can be used for screening, especially when drug-eluting effects are studied. However, major histological differences were observed in cell type reaction and depth of cell penetration compared to the aortic model. Our results demonstrate that the implantation site is a critical determinant of the biological response.
J. Dev. Biol.2016, 4(1), 10; doi:10.3390/jdb4010010 - published 17 February 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: HoxA genes encode for important DNA-binding transcription factors that act during limb development, regulating primarily gene expression and, consequently, morphogenesis and skeletal differentiation. Within these genes, HoxA11 and HoxA13 were proposed to have played an essential role in the enigmatic evolutionary transition from fish fins to tetrapod limbs. Indeed, comparative gene expression analyses led to the suggestion that changes in their regulation might have been essential for the diversification of vertebrates’ appendages. In this review, we highlight three potential modifications in the regulation and function of these genes that may have boosted appendage evolution: (1) the expansion of polyalanine repeats in the HoxA11 and HoxA13 proteins; (2) the origin of +a novel long-non-coding RNA with a possible inhibitory function on HoxA11; and (3) the acquisition of cis-regulatory elements modulating 5’ HoxA transcription. We discuss the relevance of these mechanisms for appendage diversification reviewing the current state of the art and performing additional comparative analyses to characterize, in a phylogenetic framework, HoxA11 and HoxA13 expression, alanine composition within the encoded proteins, long-non-coding RNAs and cis-regulatory elements.