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Tuberin levels during cellular differentiation in brain development

Tuberin is a member of a large protein complex, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC), and acts as a sensor for nutrient status regulating protein synthesis and cell cycle progression. Mutations in the Tuberin gene, TSC2, permits the formation of tumors that can lead to developmental defects in many organ systems, including the central nervous system. Tuberin is expressed in the brain throughout development and levels of Tuberin have been found to decrease during neuronal differentiation in cell lines in vitro. Our current work investigates the levels of Tuberin at two stages of embryonic development in vivo, and we study the mRNA and protein levels during a time course using immortalized cell lines in vitro. Our results show that total Tuberin levels are tightly regulated through developmental stages in the embryonic brain. At a cell biology level, we show that Tuberin levels are higher when cells are cultured as neurospheres, and knockdown of Tuberin results in a reduction in the number of neurospheres. This functional data supports the hypothesis that Tuberin is an important regulator of stemness and the reduction of Tuberin levels might support functional differentiation in the central nervous system. Understanding how Tuberin expression is regulated throughout neural development is essential to fully comprehend the role of this protein in several developmental and neural pathologies.

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Zebrafish anterior segment mesenchyme progenitors are defined by function of tfap2a but not sox10

The anterior segment is a critical component of the visual system. Developing independent of the retina, the AS relies partially on cranial neural crest cells (cNCC) as its earliest progenitors. The cNCCs are thought to first adopt a periocular mesenchyme (POM) fate and subsequently target to the AS upon formation of the rudimentary retina. AS targeted POM is termed anterior segment mesenchyme (ASM). However, it remains unknown when and how the switch from cNCC to POM or POM to ASM takes place. As such, we sought to visualize the timing of these transitions and identify the regulators of this process using the zebrafish embryo model. Using two color fluorescence in situ hybridization, we tracked cNCC and ASM target gene expression from 12 to 24hpf. In doing so, we identified a tfap2a and foxC1a co-expression at 16hpf, identifying the earliest ASM to arrive at the AS. Interestingly, expression of two other key regulators of NCC, foxD3 and sox10 was not associated with early ASM. Functional analysis of tfap2a, foxD3 and sox10 revealed that tfap2a and foxD3 are both critical regulators of ASM specification and AS formation while sox10 was dispensable for either specification or development of the AS. Using genetic knockout lines, we show that in the absence of tfap2a or foxD3 function ASM cells are not specified, and subsequently the AS is malformed. Conversely, sox10 genetic mutants or CRISPR Cas9 injected embryos displayed no defects in ASM specification, migration or the AS. Lastly, using transcriptomic analysis, we show that GFP+cNCCs derived from Tg [foxD3:GFP] and Tg [foxC1b:GFP] share expression profiles consistent with ASM development whereas cNCCs isolated from Tg [sox10:GFP] exhibit expression profiles associated with vasculogenesis, muscle function and pigmentation. Taken together, we propose that the earliest stage of anterior segment mesenchyme (ASM) specification in zebrafish is approximately 16hpf and involves tfap2a/foxC1a positive cNCCs.

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Fgf8 promotes survival of nephron progenitors by regulating BAX/BAK-mediated apoptosis

Fibroblast growth factors (Fgfs) have long been implicated in processes critical to embryonic development, such as cell survival, migration, and differentiation. Several mouse models of organ development ascribe a prosurvival requirement specifically to FGF8. Here, we explore the potential role of prosurvival FGF8 signaling in kidney development. We have previously demonstrated that conditional deletion of Fgf8 in the mesodermal progenitors that give rise to the kidney leads to renal aplasia in the mutant neonate. Deleterious consequences caused by loss of FGF8 begin to manifest by E14.5 when massive aberrant cell death occurs in the cortical nephrogenic zone in the rudimentary kidney as well as in the renal vesicles that give rise to the nephrons. To rescue cell death in the Fgf8 mutant kidney, we inactivate the genes encoding the pro-apoptotic factors BAK and BAX. In a wild-type background, the loss of Bak and Bax abrogates normal cell death and has minimal effect on renal development. However, in Fgf8 mutants, the combined loss of Bak and Bax rescues aberrant cell death in the kidneys and restores some measure of kidney development: 1) the nephron progenitor population is greatly increased; 2) some glomeruli form, which are rarely observed in Fgf8 mutants; and 3) kidney size is rescued by about 50% at E18.5. The development of functional nephrons, however, is not rescued. Thus, FGF8 signaling is required for nephron progenitor survival by regulating BAK/BAX and for subsequent steps involving, as yet, undefined roles in kidney development.

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Facile methods for reusing laboratory plastic in developmental biology experiments

Plastic pollution negatively affects ecosystems and human health globally, with single-use plastic representing the majority of marine litter in some areas. Life science laboratories prefer pristine conditions for experimental reliability and therefore make use of factory standardized single-use plastic products. This contributes to overall plastic waste in the United States and globally. Here, we investigate the potential of reusing plastic culture dishes and subsequently propose methods to mitigate single-use plastic waste in developmental biology research laboratories. We tested the efficacy of bleach and ethyl alcohol in sterilizing used dishes. We then tested the feasibility of washing and reusing plastic to culture Xenopus laevis embryos subjected to various manipulations. Cleaning and reusing laboratory plastic did not affect the development or survival of X. laevis, indicating that these cleaning methods do not adversely affect experimental outcome and can be used to sterilize plastic before reuse or recycling. Lastly, we performed a survey of various life science laboratories to estimate both waste reduction and savings associated with recycling single-use plastics. Standardization of these procedures would allow research laboratories to benefit economically while practicing environmentally conscious consumption.

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Role of mesonephric contribution to mouse testicular development revisited

The role of the mesonephros in testicular development was re-evaluated by growing embryonic day 11.5 (E11.5) mouse testes devoid of mesonephros for 8-21 days in vivo under the renal capsule of castrated male athymic nude mice. This method provides improved growth conditions relative to previous studies based upon short-term (4-7 days) organ culture. Meticulous controls involved wholemount examination of dissected E11.5 mouse testes as well as serial sections of dissected E11.5 mouse testes which were indeed shown to be devoid of mesonephros. As expected, grafts of E11.5 mouse testes with mesonephros attached formed seminiferous tubules and also contained mesonephric derivatives. Grafts of E11.5 mouse testes without associated mesonephros also formed seminiferous tubules and never contained mesonephric derivatives. The consistent absence of mesonephric derivatives in grafts of E11.5 mouse testes grafted alone is further proof of the complete removal of the mesonephros from the E11.5 mouse testes. The testicular tissues that developed in grafts of E11.5 mouse testes alone contained canalized seminiferous tubules composed of Sox9-positive Sertoli cells as well as GENA-positive germ cells. The seminiferous tubules were surrounded by α-actin-positive myoid cells, and the interstitial space contained 3βHSD-1-positive Leydig cells. Grafts of E11.5 GFP mouse testes into wild-type hosts developed GFP-positive vasculature indicating that E11.5 mouse testes contain vascular precursors. These results indicate that the E11.5 mouse testis contains precursor cells for Sertoli cells, Leydig cells, myoid cells and vasculature whose development and differentiation are independent of cells migrating from the E11.5 mesonephros.

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A model to study human ovotesticular syndrome

Ovotesticular syndrome is a rare disorder of sex development characterized by the presence of testicular and ovarian tissue. The histologic characteristics of human testicular tissue are well defined by the presence of seminiferous cords or tubules containing TSPY-positive germ cells and Sox9-positive Sertoli cells surrounded by interstitial tissue containing cytochrome P450-positive Leydig cells and smooth muscle α-actin-positive peritubular myoid cells. The histological characteristics of the ovary can be defined by germ cell nests and the development of follicles. In contrast to the testis, the ovary has a paucity of defined specific protein markers, with the granulosa cell marker FOXL2 being the most widely used. In practice, defining the ovarian component of the ovotestis can be quite difficult. We developed a model of human ovotesticular syndrome by combining fetal human testis and ovary in a xenograft model. Ovotesticular xenografts were grown under the renal capsules of gonadectomized athymic nude mice for 6-32 weeks along with age matched control grafts of fetal testis and ovary. Forty ovotesticular xenografts and their controls were analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, and fluorescent in situ hybridization to determine the protein expression and karyotype of the cells within the grafts. The ovotesticular xenografts exhibited recognizable testicular and ovarian tissue based on testis-specific and ovary-specific markers defined above. The xenografts simulated a bipolar ovotestis in which the testicular and ovarian elements retain their separate histological characteristics and are separated by a well-defined border. This contrasts with the compartmentalized ovotestis previously described in the literature where the testicular tissue is surrounded by ovarian tissue or a mixed histology where testicular and ovarian tissues are interspersed throughout the gonad. In conclusion, we have characterized a human model of ovotestis which will allow a deeper understanding of ovotestis development in humans and facilitate a more accurate diagnosis of the ovotesticular syndrome.

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