The canonical Wnt pathway transcriptional co-activator β-catenin regulates self-renewal and differentiation of mammalian nephron progenitor cells (NPCs). We modulated β-catenin levels in NPC cultures using the GSK3 inhibitor CHIR9902 (CHIR) to examine opposing developmental actions of β-catenin. Low CHIR-mediated maintenance and expansion of NPCs is independent of direct engagement of TCF/LEF/β-catenin transcriptional complexes at low CHIR-dependent cell-cycle targets. In contrast, in high CHIR, TCF7/LEF1/β-catenin complexes replaced TCF7L1/TCF7L2 binding on enhancers of differentiation-promoting target genes. Chromosome confirmation studies showed pre-established promoter-enhancer connections to these target genes in NPCs. High CHIR-associated de novo looping was observed in positive transcriptional feedback regulation to the canonical Wnt pathway. Thus, β-catenin's direct transcriptional role is restricted to the induction of NPCs where rising β-catenin levels switch inhibitory TCF7L1/TCF7L2 complexes to activating LEF1/TCF7 complexes at primed gene targets poised for rapid initiation of a nephrogenic program.
All RNA-Seq, ATAC-Seq, ChIP-Seq and HiC data sets are accessible through GEO (GSE131119).
Genome-wide map of open chromatin, trancription factor occupancy, chromatin marks and gene expression profiles in mouse nephron progenitor cellsNCBI Gene Expression Omnibus, GSE131119.
- Andrew P McMahon
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocols (#11893) of the University of Southern California. The protocol was approved by the Committee on the Ethics of Animal Experiments of the University of Southern California. Every effort was made to minimize suffering.
- Edward E Morrisey, University of Pennsylvania, United States
© 2021, Guo 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.
Development of the nervous system depends on signaling centers – specialized cellular populations that produce secreted molecules to regulate neurogenesis in the neighboring neuroepithelium. In some cases, signaling center cells also differentiate to produce key types of neurons. The formation of a signaling center involves its induction, the maintenance of expression of its secreted molecules, and cell differentiation and migration events. How these distinct processes are coordinated during signaling center development remains unknown. By performing studies in mice, we show that Lmx1a acts as a master regulator to orchestrate the formation and function of the cortical hem (CH), a critical signaling center that controls hippocampus development. Lmx1a co-regulates CH induction, its Wnt signaling, and the differentiation and migration of CH-derived Cajal–Retzius neurons. Combining RNAseq, genetic, and rescue experiments, we identified major downstream genes that mediate distinct Lmx1a-dependent processes. Our work revealed that signaling centers in the mammalian brain employ master regulatory genes and established a framework for analyzing signaling center development.