Alx1 is a pivotal transcription factor in a gene regulatory network that controls skeletogenesis throughout the echinoderm phylum. We performed a structure-function analysis of sea urchin Alx1 using a rescue assay and identified a novel, conserved motif (Domain 2) essential for skeletogenic function. The paralogue of Alx1, Alx4, was not functionally interchangeable with Alx1, but insertion of Domain 2 conferred robust skeletogenic function on Alx4. We used cross-species expression experiments to show that Alx1 proteins from distantly related echinoderms are not interchangeable, although the sequence and function of Domain 2 are highly conserved. We also found that Domain 2 is subject to alternative splicing and provide evidence that this domain was originally gained through exon extension. Our findings show that a gene duplication event permitted the functional specialization of a transcription factor through changes in exon-intron organization and thereby supported the evolution of a major morphological novelty.
SpBase:the sea urchin genome database and web sitePublicly available at spBase.org.
Echinobase: an expanding resource for echinoderm genomic informationPublicly available at echinobase.org.
Hemichordate genomes and deuterostome originsPublicly available at marinegenomics.oist.jp.
- Charles A Ettensohn
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Diethard Tautz, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany
© 2017, Khor & Ettensohn
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.
Wolfram syndrome 1 (WS1) is a rare genetic disorder caused by mutations in the WFS1 gene leading to a wide spectrum of clinical dysfunctions, among which blindness, diabetes, and neurological deficits are the most prominent. WFS1 encodes for the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) resident transmembrane protein wolframin with multiple functions in ER processes. However, the WFS1-dependent etiopathology in retinal cells is unknown. Herein, we showed that Wfs1 mutant mice developed early retinal electrophysiological impairments followed by marked visual loss. Interestingly, axons and myelin disruption in the optic nerve preceded the degeneration of the retinal ganglion cell bodies in the retina. Transcriptomics at pre-degenerative stage revealed the STAT3-dependent activation of proinflammatory glial markers with reduction of the homeostatic and pro-survival factors glutamine synthetase and BDNF. Furthermore, label-free comparative proteomics identified a significant reduction of the monocarboxylate transport isoform 1 (MCT1) and its partner basigin that are highly enriched on retinal glia and myelin-forming oligodendrocytes in optic nerve together with wolframin. Loss of MCT1 caused a failure in lactate transfer from glial to neuronal cell bodies and axons leading to a chronic hypometabolic state. Thus, this bioenergetic impairment is occurring concurrently both within the axonal regions and cell bodies of the retinal ganglion cells, selectively endangering their survival while impacting less on other retinal cells. This metabolic dysfunction occurs months before the frank RGC degeneration suggesting an extended time-window for intervening with new therapeutic strategies focused on boosting retinal and optic nerve bioenergetics in WS1.
The tuberal hypothalamus controls life-supporting homeostatic processes, but despite its fundamental role, the cells and signalling pathways that specify this unique region of the CNS in embryogenesis are poorly characterised. Here we combine experimental and bioinformatic approaches in the embryonic chick to show that the tuberal hypothalamus is progressively generated from hypothalamic floor plate-like cells. Fate-mapping studies show that a stream of tuberal progenitors develops in the anterior-ventral neural tube as a wave of neuroepithelial-derived BMP signalling sweeps from anterior to posterior through the hypothalamic floor plate. As later-specified posterior tuberal progenitors are generated, early-specified anterior tuberal progenitors become progressively more distant from these BMP signals and differentiate into tuberal neurogenic cells. Gain- and loss-of-function experiments in vivo and ex vivo show that BMP signalling initiates tuberal progenitor specification, but must be eliminated for these to progress to anterior neurogenic progenitors. ScRNA-Seq profiling shows that tuberal progenitors that are specified after the major period of anterior tuberal specification begin to upregulate genes that characterise radial glial cells. This study provides an integrated account of the development of the tuberal hypothalamus.