Embryos must communicate instructions to their constituent cells over long distances. These instructions are often encoded in the concentration of signals called morphogens. In the textbook view, morphogen molecules diffuse from a localized source to form a concentration gradient, and target cells adopt fates by measuring the local morphogen concentration. However, natural patterning systems often incorporate numerous co-factors and extensive signaling feedback, suggesting that embryos require additional mechanisms to generate signaling patterns. Here, we examine the mechanisms of signaling pattern formation for the mesendoderm inducer Nodal during zebrafish embryogenesis. We find that Nodal signaling activity spans a normal range in the absence of signaling feedback and relay, suggesting that diffusion is sufficient for Nodal gradient formation. We further show that the range of endogenous Nodal ligands is set by the EGF-CFC co-receptor Oep: in the absence of Oep, Nodal activity spreads to form a nearly uniform distribution throughout the embryo. In turn, increasing Oep levels sensitizes cells to Nodal ligands. We recapitulate these experimental results with a computational model in which Oep regulates the diffusive spread of Nodal ligands by setting the rate of capture by target cells. This model predicts, and we confirm in vivo, the surprising observation that a failure to replenish Oep transforms the Nodal signaling gradient into a travelling wave. These results reveal that patterns of Nodal morphogen signaling are shaped by co-receptor-mediated restriction of ligand spread and sensitization of responding cells.
Source data files have been provided for all quantified immunofluorescence datasets.
- Nathan D Lord
- Alexander F Schier
- Adam N Carte
- Adam N Carte
- Nathan D Lord
- Philip B Abitua
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All vertebrate animal work was performed at the facilities of Harvard University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences (HU/FAS). The HU/FAS animal care and use program maintains full AAALAC accreditation, is assured with OLAW (A3593-01), and is currently registered with the USDA. This study was approved by the Harvard University/Faculty of Arts & Sciences Standing Committee on the Use of Animals in Research & Teaching under Protocol No. 25-08.
- Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, Washington University School of Medicine, United States
© 2021, Lord 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.
Using a neural network to predict how green fluorescent proteins respond to genetic mutations illuminates properties that could help design new proteins.
Thermal adaptation is an extensively used intervention for enhancing or suppressing thermogenic and mitochondrial activity in adipose tissues. As such, it has been suggested as a potential lifestyle intervention for body weight maintenance. While the metabolic consequences of thermal acclimation are not limited to the adipose tissues, the impact on the rest of the tissues in context of their gene expression profile remains unclear. Here, we provide a systematic characterization of the effects in a comparative multi-tissue RNA sequencing approach following exposure of mice to 10 °C, 22 °C, or 34 °C in a panel of organs consisting of spleen, bone marrow, spinal cord, brain, hypothalamus, ileum, liver, quadriceps, subcutaneous-, visceral- and brown adipose tissues. We highlight that transcriptional responses to temperature alterations exhibit a high degree of tissue-specificity both at the gene level and at GO enrichment gene sets, and show that the tissue-specificity is not directed by the distinct basic gene expression pattern exhibited by the various organs. Our study places the adaptation of individual tissues to different temperatures in a whole-organism framework and provides integrative transcriptional analysis necessary for understanding the temperature-mediated biological programming.