Upon fertilization, the genome of animal embryos remains transcriptionally inactive until the maternal-to-zygotic transition. At this time, the embryo takes control of its development and transcription begins. How the onset of zygotic transcription is regulated remains unclear. Here, we show that a dynamic competition for DNA binding between nucleosome-forming histones and transcription factors regulates zebrafish genome activation. Taking a quantitative approach, we found that the concentration of non-DNA bound core histones sets the time for the onset of transcription. The reduction in nuclear histone concentration that coincides with genome activation does not affect nucleosome density on DNA, but allows transcription factors to compete successfully for DNA binding. In agreement with this, transcription factor binding is sensitive to histone levels and the concentration of transcription factors also affects the time of transcription. Our results demonstrate that the relative levels of histones and transcription factors regulate the onset of transcription in the embryo.
- Nadine L Vastenhouw
- Shai R Joseph
- Mukesh Kumar
- Vasily Zaburdaev
- Andrej Shevchenko
- Nadine L Vastenhouw
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Karen Adelman, Harvard University, United States
© 2017, Joseph et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Zebrafish are an established research organism that has made many contributions to our understanding of vertebrate tissue and organ development, yet there are still significant gaps in our understanding of the genes that regulate gonad development, sex, and reproduction. Unlike the development of many organs, such as the brain and heart that form during the first few days of development, zebrafish gonads do not begin to form until the larval stage (≥5 dpf). Thus, forward genetic screens have identified very few genes required for gonad development. In addition, bulk RNA sequencing studies which identify genes expressed in the gonads do not have the resolution necessary to define minor cell populations that may play significant roles in development and function of these organs. To overcome these limitations, we have used single-cell RNA sequencing to determine the transcriptomes of cells isolated from juvenile zebrafish ovaries. This resulted in the profiles of 10,658 germ cells and 14,431 somatic cells. Our germ cell data represents all developmental stages from germline stem cells to early meiotic oocytes. Our somatic cell data represents all known somatic cell types, including follicle cells, theca cells and ovarian stromal cells. Further analysis revealed an unexpected number of cell subpopulations within these broadly defined cell types. To further define their functional significance, we determined the location of these cell subpopulations within the ovary. Finally, we used gene knockout experiments to determine the roles of foxl2l and wnt9b for oocyte development and sex determination and/or differentiation, respectively. Our results reveal novel insights into zebrafish ovarian development and function and the transcriptome profiles will provide a valuable resource for future studies.
The expression of Fibroblast growth factors (Fgf) ligands in a specialized epithelial compartment, the Apical Ectodermal Ridge (AER), is a conserved feature of limb development across vertebrate species. In vertebrates, Fgf 4, 8, 9, and 17 are all expressed in the AER. An exception to this paradigm is the salamander (axolotl) developing and regenerating limb, where key Fgf ligands are expressed in the mesenchyme. The mesenchymal expression of Amex.Fgf8 in axolotl has been suggested to be critical for regeneration. To date, there is little knowledge regarding what controls Amex.Fgf8 expression in the axolotl limb mesenchyme. A large body of mouse and chick studies have defined a set of transcription factors and canonical Wnt signaling as the main regulators of epidermal Fgf8 expression in these organisms. In this study, we address the hypothesis that alterations to one or more of these components during evolution has resulted in mesenchymal Amex.Fgf8 expression in the axolotl. To sensitively quantify gene expression with spatial precision, we combined optical clearing of whole-mount axolotl limb tissue with single molecule fluorescen in situ hybridization and a semi-automated quantification pipeline. Several candidate upstream components were found expressed in the axolotl ectoderm, indicating that they are not direct regulators of Amex.Fgf8 expression. We found that Amex.Wnt3a is expressed in axolotl limb epidermis, similarly to chicken and mouse. However, unlike in amniotes, Wnt target genes are activated preferentially in limb mesenchyme rather than in epidermis. Inhibition and activation of Wnt signaling results in downregulation and upregulation of mesenchymal Amex.Fgf8 expression respectively. These results implicate a shift in tissue responsiveness to canonical Wnt signaling from epidermis to mesenchyme as one step contributing to the unique mesenchymal Amex.Fgf8 expression seen in the axolotl.