Publications by authors named "Bernard Peers"

31 Publications

Pancreatic and intestinal endocrine cells in zebrafish share common transcriptomic signatures and regulatory programmes.

BMC Biol 2020 08 31;18(1):109. Epub 2020 Aug 31.

Laboratory of Zebrafish Development and Disease Models (ZDDM), GIGA, University of Liège, Avenue de l'Hôpital 1, B34, Sart Tilman, 4000, Liège, Belgium.

Background: Endocrine cells of the zebrafish digestive system play an important role in regulating metabolism and include pancreatic endocrine cells (PECs) clustered in the islets of Langerhans and the enteroendocrine cells (EECs) scattered in the intestinal epithelium. Despite EECs and PECs are being located in distinct organs, their differentiation involves shared molecular mechanisms and transcription factors. However, their degree of relatedness remains unexplored. In this study, we investigated comprehensively the similarity of EECs and PECs by defining their transcriptomic landscape and comparing the regulatory programmes controlled by Pax6b, a key player in both EEC and PEC differentiations.

Results: RNA sequencing was performed on EECs and PECs isolated from wild-type and pax6b mutant zebrafish. Data mining of wild-type zebrafish EEC data confirmed the expression of orthologues for most known mammalian EEC hormones, but also revealed the expression of three additional neuropeptide hormones (Proenkephalin-a, Calcitonin-a and Adcyap1a) not previously reported to be expressed by EECs in any species. Comparison of transcriptomes from EECs, PECs and other zebrafish tissues highlights a very close similarity between EECs and PECs, with more than 70% of genes being expressed in both endocrine cell types. Comparison of Pax6b-regulated genes in EECs and PECs revealed a significant overlap. pax6b loss-of-function does not affect the total number of EECs and PECs but instead disrupts the balance between endocrine cell subtypes, leading to an increase of ghrelin- and motilin-like-expressing cells in both the intestine and pancreas at the expense of other endocrine cells such as beta and delta cells in the pancreas and pyyb-expressing cells in the intestine. Finally, we show that the homeodomain of Pax6b is dispensable for its action in both EECs and PECs.

Conclusion: We have analysed the transcriptomic landscape of wild-type and pax6b mutant zebrafish EECs and PECs. Our study highlights the close relatedness of EECs and PECs at the transcriptomic and regulatory levels, supporting the hypothesis of a common phylogenetic origin and underscoring the potential implication of EECs in metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12915-020-00840-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7457809PMC
August 2020

Dual-initiation promoters with intertwined canonical and TCT/TOP transcription start sites diversify transcript processing.

Nat Commun 2020 01 10;11(1):168. Epub 2020 Jan 10.

Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.

Variations in transcription start site (TSS) selection reflect diversity of preinitiation complexes and can impact on post-transcriptional RNA fates. Most metazoan polymerase II-transcribed genes carry canonical initiation with pyrimidine/purine (YR) dinucleotide, while translation machinery-associated genes carry polypyrimidine initiator (5'-TOP or TCT). By addressing the developmental regulation of TSS selection in zebrafish we uncovered a class of dual-initiation promoters in thousands of genes, including snoRNA host genes. 5'-TOP/TCT initiation is intertwined with canonical initiation and used divergently in hundreds of dual-initiation promoters during maternal to zygotic transition. Dual-initiation in snoRNA host genes selectively generates host and snoRNA with often different spatio-temporal expression. Dual-initiation promoters are pervasive in human and fruit fly, reflecting evolutionary conservation. We propose that dual-initiation on shared promoters represents a composite promoter architecture, which can function both coordinately and divergently to diversify RNAs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-13687-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6954239PMC
January 2020

Codon-specific translation reprogramming promotes resistance to targeted therapy.

Nature 2018 06 20;558(7711):605-609. Epub 2018 Jun 20.

Laboratory of Cancer Signaling, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.

Reprogramming of mRNA translation has a key role in cancer development and drug resistance . However, the molecular mechanisms that are involved in this process remain poorly understood. Wobble tRNA modifications are required for specific codon decoding during translation. Here we show, in humans, that the enzymes that catalyse modifications of wobble uridine 34 (U) tRNA (U enzymes) are key players of the protein synthesis rewiring that is induced by the transformation driven by the BRAF oncogene and by resistance to targeted therapy in melanoma. We show that BRAF -expressing melanoma cells are dependent on U enzymes for survival, and that concurrent inhibition of MAPK signalling and ELP3 or CTU1 and/or CTU2 synergizes to kill melanoma cells. Activation of the PI3K signalling pathway, one of the most common mechanisms of acquired resistance to MAPK therapeutic agents, markedly increases the expression of U enzymes. Mechanistically, U enzymes promote glycolysis in melanoma cells through the direct, codon-dependent, regulation of the translation of HIF1A mRNA and the maintenance of high levels of HIF1α protein. Therefore, the acquired resistance to anti-BRAF therapy is associated with high levels of U enzymes and HIF1α. Together, these results demonstrate that U enzymes promote the survival and resistance to therapy of melanoma cells by regulating specific mRNA translation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0243-7DOI Listing
June 2018

Nifurpirinol: A more potent and reliable substrate compared to metronidazole for nitroreductase-mediated cell ablations.

Wound Repair Regen 2018 03 19;26(2):238-244. Epub 2018 May 19.

Zebrafish Development and Disease Models Laboratory/GIGA, University of Liège, Liege, Belgium.

The zebrafish is a popular animal model with well-known regenerative capabilities. To study regeneration in this fish, the nitroreductase/metronidazole-mediated system is widely used for targeted ablation of various cell types. Nevertheless, we highlight here some variability in ablation efficiencies with the metronidazole prodrug that led us to search for a more efficient and reliable compound. Herein, we present nifurpirinol, another nitroaromatic antibiotic, as a more potent prodrug compared to metronidazole to trigger cell-ablation in nitroreductase expressing transgenic models. We show that nifurpirinol induces robust and reliable ablations at concentrations 2,000 fold lower than metronidazole and three times below its own toxic concentration. We confirmed the efficiency of nifurpirinol in triggering massive ablation of three different cell types: the pancreatic beta cells, osteoblasts, and dopaminergic neurons. Our results identify nifurpirinol as a very potent prodrug for the nitroreductase-mediated ablation system and suggest that its use could be extended to many other cell types, especially if difficult to ablate, or when combined pharmacological treatments are desired.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/wrr.12633DOI Listing
March 2018

Tcf7l2 plays pleiotropic roles in the control of glucose homeostasis, pancreas morphology, vascularization and regeneration.

Sci Rep 2017 08 29;7(1):9605. Epub 2017 Aug 29.

Department of Biology, University of Padova, I-35131, Padova, Italy.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a disease characterized by impaired insulin secretion. The Wnt signaling transcription factor Tcf7l2 is to date the T2D-associated gene with the largest effect on disease susceptibility. However, the mechanisms by which TCF7L2 variants affect insulin release from β-cells are not yet fully understood. By taking advantage of a tcf7l2 zebrafish mutant line, we first show that these animals are characterized by hyperglycemia and impaired islet development. Moreover, we demonstrate that the zebrafish tcf7l2 gene is highly expressed in the exocrine pancreas, suggesting potential bystander effects on β-cell growth, differentiation and regeneration. Finally, we describe a peculiar vascular phenotype in tcf7l2 mutant larvae, characterized by significant reduction in the average number and diameter of pancreatic islet capillaries. Overall, the zebrafish Tcf7l2 mutant, characterized by hyperglycemia, pancreatic and vascular defects, and reduced regeneration proves to be a suitable model to study the mechanism of action and the pleiotropic effects of Tcf7l2, the most relevant T2D GWAS hit in human populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-09867-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5575064PMC
August 2017

Transcriptome analysis of pancreatic cells across distant species highlights novel important regulator genes.

BMC Biol 2017 03 21;15(1):21. Epub 2017 Mar 21.

Laboratory of Zebrafish Development and Disease Models (ZDDM), GIGA, University of Liège, Avenue de l'Hôpital 1, B34, 4000 Sart Tilman, Liege, Belgium.

Background: Defining the transcriptome and the genetic pathways of pancreatic cells is of great interest for elucidating the molecular attributes of pancreas disorders such as diabetes and cancer. As the function of the different pancreatic cell types has been maintained during vertebrate evolution, the comparison of their transcriptomes across distant vertebrate species is a means to pinpoint genes under strong evolutionary constraints due to their crucial function, which have therefore preserved their selective expression in these pancreatic cell types.

Results: In this study, RNA-sequencing was performed on pancreatic alpha, beta, and delta endocrine cells as well as the acinar and ductal exocrine cells isolated from adult zebrafish transgenic lines. Comparison of these transcriptomes identified many novel markers, including transcription factors and signaling pathway components, specific for each cell type. By performing interspecies comparisons, we identified hundreds of genes with conserved enriched expression in endocrine and exocrine cells among human, mouse, and zebrafish. This list includes many genes known as crucial for pancreatic cell formation or function, but also pinpoints many factors whose pancreatic function is still unknown. A large set of endocrine-enriched genes can already be detected at early developmental stages as revealed by the transcriptomic profiling of embryonic endocrine cells, indicating a potential role in cell differentiation. The actual involvement of conserved endocrine genes in pancreatic cell differentiation was demonstrated in zebrafish for myt1b, whose invalidation leads to a reduction of alpha cells, and for cdx4, selectively expressed in endocrine delta cells and crucial for their specification. Intriguingly, comparison of the endocrine alpha and beta cell subtypes from human, mouse, and zebrafish reveals a much lower conservation of the transcriptomic signatures for these two endocrine cell subtypes compared to the signatures of pan-endocrine and exocrine cells. These data suggest that the identity of the alpha and beta cells relies on a few key factors, corroborating numerous examples of inter-conversion between these two endocrine cell subtypes.

Conclusion: This study highlights both evolutionary conserved and species-specific features that will help to unveil universal and fundamental regulatory pathways as well as pathways specific to human and laboratory animal models such as mouse and zebrafish.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12915-017-0362-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5360028PMC
March 2017

Habenular Neurogenesis in Zebrafish Is Regulated by a Hedgehog, Pax6 Proneural Gene Cascade.

PLoS One 2016 7;11(7):e0158210. Epub 2016 Jul 7.

Université de Toulouse III, UPS, Centre de Biologie du Développement (CBD), Centre de Biologie Intégrative (CBI), 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse, France.

The habenulae are highly conserved nuclei in the dorsal diencephalon that connect the forebrain to the midbrain and hindbrain. These nuclei have been implicated in a broad variety of behaviours in humans, primates, rodents and zebrafish. Despite this, the molecular mechanisms that control the genesis and differentiation of neural progenitors in the habenulae remain relatively unknown. We have previously shown that, in zebrafish, the timing of habenular neurogenesis is left-right asymmetric and that in the absence of Nodal signalling this asymmetry is lost. Here, we show that habenular neurogenesis requires the homeobox transcription factor Pax6a and the redundant action of two proneural bHLH factors, Neurog1 and Neurod4. We present evidence that Hedgehog signalling is required for the expression of pax6a, which is in turn necessary for the expression of neurog1 and neurod4. Finally, we demonstrate by pharmacological inhibition that Hedgehog signalling is required continuously during habenular neurogenesis and by cell transplantation experiments that pathway activation is required cell autonomously. Our data sheds light on the mechanism underlying habenular development that may provide insights into how Nodal signalling imposes asymmetry on the timing of habenular neurogenesis.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0158210PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4936704PMC
July 2017

Phenotypic and biomarker evaluation of zebrafish larvae as an alternative model to predict mammalian hepatotoxicity.

J Appl Toxicol 2016 09 4;36(9):1194-206. Epub 2016 Mar 4.

VITO NV, Applied Bio & Molecular Systems, Boeretang 200, B-2400, Mol, Belgium.

Zebrafish phenotypic assays have shown promise to assess human hepatotoxicity, though scoring of liver morphology remains subjective and difficult to standardize. Liver toxicity in zebrafish larvae at 5 days was assessed using gene expression as the biomarker approach, complementary to phenotypic analysis and analytical data on compound uptake. This approach aimed to contribute to improved hepatotoxicity prediction, with the goal of identifying biomarker(s) as a step towards the development of transgenic models for prioritization. Morphological effects of hepatotoxic compounds (acetaminophen, amiodarone, coumarin, methapyrilene and myclobutanil) and saccharin as the negative control were assessed after exposure in zebrafish larvae. The hepatotoxic compounds induced the expected zebrafish liver degeneration or changes in size, whereas saccharin did not have any phenotypic adverse effect. Analytical methods based on liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry were optimized to measure stability of selected compounds in exposure medium and internal concentration in larvae. All compounds were stable, except amiodarone for which precipitation was observed. There was a wide variation between the levels of compound in the zebrafish larvae with a higher uptake of amiodarone, methapyrilene and myclobutanil. Detection of hepatocyte markers (CP, CYP3A65, GC and TF) was accomplished by in situ hybridization of larvae to coumarin and myclobutanil and confirmed by real-time reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Experiments showed decreased expression of all markers. Next, other liver-specific biomarkers (i.e. FABP10a and NR1H4) and apoptosis (i.e. CASP-3 A and TP53) or cytochrome P450-related (CYP2K19) and oxidoreductase activity-related (ZGC163022) genes, were screened. Links between basic mechanisms of liver injury and results of biomarker responses are described. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jat.3288DOI Listing
September 2016

ADAMTS3 activity is mandatory for embryonic lymphangiogenesis and regulates placental angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis 2016 Jan 7;19(1):53-65. Epub 2015 Oct 7.

Laboratory of Connective Tissues Biology, Tour de Pathologie, GIGA-R, University of Liege, B23/3, 4000, Sart Tilman, Belgium.

The only documented activity of a subclass of ADAMTS proteases comprising ADAMTS2, 3 and 14 is the cleavage of the aminopropeptide of fibrillar procollagens. A limited number of in vitro studies suggested that ADAMTS3 is mainly responsible for procollagen II processing in cartilage. Here, we created an ADAMTS3 knockout mouse (Adamts3(-/-)) model to determine in vivo the actual functions of ADAMTS3. Heterozygous Adamts3(+/-) mice were viable and fertile, but their intercrosses demonstrated lethality of Adamts3(-/-) embryos after 15 days of gestation. Procollagens I, II and III processing was unaffected in these embryos. However, a massive lymphedema caused by the lack of lymphatics development, an abnormal blood vessel structure in the placenta and a progressive liver destruction were observed. These phenotypes are most probably linked to dysregulation of the VEGF-C pathways. This study is the first demonstration that an aminoprocollagen peptidase is crucial for developmental processes independently of its primary role in collagen biology and has physiological functions potentially involved in several human diseases related to angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10456-015-9488-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4700087PMC
January 2016

Copy number variants in patients with intellectual disability affect the regulation of ARX transcription factor gene.

Hum Genet 2015 Nov 4;134(11-12):1163-82. Epub 2015 Sep 4.

Department of Physiology, Brain and Mind Research Institute, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, 94 Mallet Street, Camperdown, NSW, 2050, Australia.

Protein-coding mutations in the transcription factor-encoding gene ARX cause various forms of intellectual disability (ID) and epilepsy. In contrast, variations in surrounding non-coding sequences are correlated with milder forms of non-syndromic ID and autism and had suggested the importance of ARX gene regulation in the etiology of these disorders. We compile data on several novel and some already identified patients with or without ID that carry duplications of ARX genomic region and consider likely genetic mechanisms underlying the neurodevelopmental defects. We establish the long-range regulatory domain of ARX and identify its brain region-specific autoregulation. We conclude that neurodevelopmental disturbances in the patients may not simply arise from increased dosage due to ARX duplication. This is further exemplified by a small duplication involving a non-functional ARX copy, but with duplicated enhancers. ARX enhancers are located within a 504-kb region and regulate expression specifically in the forebrain in developing and adult zebrafish. Transgenic enhancer-reporter lines were used as in vivo tools to delineate a brain region-specific negative and positive autoregulation of ARX. We find autorepression of ARX in the telencephalon and autoactivation in the ventral thalamus. Fluorescently labeled brain regions in the transgenic lines facilitated the identification of neuronal outgrowth and pathfinding disturbances in the ventral thalamus and telencephalon that occur when arxa dosage is diminished. In summary, we have established a model for how breakpoints in long-range gene regulation alter the expression levels of a target gene brain region-specifically, and how this can cause subtle neuronal phenotypes relating to the etiology of associated neuropsychiatric disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-015-1594-xDOI Listing
November 2015

Progenitor potential of nkx6.1-expressing cells throughout zebrafish life and during beta cell regeneration.

BMC Biol 2015 Sep 2;13:70. Epub 2015 Sep 2.

Laboratory of Zebrafish Development and Disease Models (ZDDM), GIGA-Research, (Sart-Tilman) University of Liège, Avenue de l'Hôpital 1, B34, 4000, Liège, Belgium.

Background: In contrast to mammals, the zebrafish has the remarkable capacity to regenerate its pancreatic beta cells very efficiently. Understanding the mechanisms of regeneration in the zebrafish and the differences with mammals will be fundamental to discovering molecules able to stimulate the regeneration process in mammals. To identify the pancreatic cells able to give rise to new beta cells in the zebrafish, we generated new transgenic lines allowing the tracing of multipotent pancreatic progenitors and endocrine precursors.

Results: Using novel bacterial artificial chromosome transgenic nkx6.1 and ascl1b reporter lines, we established that nkx6.1-positive cells give rise to all the pancreatic cell types and ascl1b-positive cells give rise to all the endocrine cell types in the zebrafish embryo. These two genes are initially co-expressed in the pancreatic primordium and their domains segregate, not as a result of mutual repression, but through the opposite effects of Notch signaling, maintaining nkx6.1 expression while repressing ascl1b in progenitors. In the adult zebrafish, nkx6.1 expression persists exclusively in the ductal tree at the tip of which its expression coincides with Notch active signaling in centroacinar/terminal end duct cells. Tracing these cells reveals that they are able to differentiate into other ductal cells and into insulin-expressing cells in normal (non-diabetic) animals. This capacity of ductal cells to generate endocrine cells is supported by the detection of ascl1b in the nkx6.1:GFP ductal cell transcriptome. This transcriptome also reveals, besides actors of the Notch and Wnt pathways, several novel markers such as id2a. Finally, we show that beta cell ablation in the adult zebrafish triggers proliferation of ductal cells and their differentiation into insulin-expressing cells.

Conclusions: We have shown that, in the zebrafish embryo, nkx6.1+ cells are bona fide multipotent pancreatic progenitors, while ascl1b+ cells represent committed endocrine precursors. In contrast to the mouse, pancreatic progenitor markers nkx6.1 and pdx1 continue to be expressed in adult ductal cells, a subset of which we show are still able to proliferate and undergo ductal and endocrine differentiation, providing robust evidence of the existence of pancreatic progenitor/stem cells in the adult zebrafish. Our findings support the hypothesis that nkx6.1+ pancreatic progenitors contribute to beta cell regeneration. Further characterization of these cells will open up new perspectives for anti-diabetic therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12915-015-0179-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556004PMC
September 2015

Ascl1b and Neurod1, instead of Neurog3, control pancreatic endocrine cell fate in zebrafish.

BMC Biol 2013 Jul 8;11:78. Epub 2013 Jul 8.

Laboratory of zebrafish development and disease models, University of Liege (ULg), Liege 4000, Belgium.

Background: NEUROG3 is a key regulator of pancreatic endocrine cell differentiation in mouse, essential for the generation of all mature hormone producing cells. It is repressed by Notch signaling that prevents pancreatic cell differentiation by maintaining precursors in an undifferentiated state.

Results: We show that, in zebrafish, neurog3 is not expressed in the pancreas and null neurog3 mutant embryos do not display any apparent endocrine defects. The control of endocrine cell fate is instead fulfilled by two basic helix-loop-helix factors, Ascl1b and Neurod1, that are both repressed by Notch signaling. ascl1b is transiently expressed in the mid-trunk endoderm just after gastrulation and is required for the generation of the first pancreatic endocrine precursor cells. Neurod1 is expressed afterwards in the pancreatic anlagen and pursues the endocrine cell differentiation program initiated by Ascl1b. Their complementary role in endocrine differentiation of the dorsal bud is demonstrated by the loss of all hormone-secreting cells following their simultaneous inactivation. This defect is due to a blockage of the initiation of endocrine cell differentiation.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that NEUROG3 is not the unique pancreatic endocrine cell fate determinant in vertebrates. A general survey of endocrine cell fate determinants in the whole digestive system among vertebrates indicates that they all belong to the ARP/ASCL family but not necessarily to the Neurog3 subfamily. The identity of the ARP/ASCL factor involved depends not only on the organ but also on the species. One could, therefore, consider differentiating stem cells into insulin-producing cells without the involvement of NEUROG3 but via another ARP/ASCL factor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1741-7007-11-78DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3726459PMC
July 2013

The bHLH transcription factor Ascl1a is essential for the specification of the intestinal secretory cells and mediates Notch signaling in the zebrafish intestine.

Dev Biol 2013 Apr 23;376(2):187-97. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Unit of Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, Giga-Research, University of Liège, 1 avenue de l'Hôpital B34, B-4000 Sart-Tilman (Liège), Belgium.

Notch signaling has a fundamental role in stem cell maintenance and in cell fate choice in the intestine of different species. Canonically, Notch signaling represses the expression of transcription factors of the achaete-scute like (ASCL) or atonal related protein (ARP) families. Identifying the ARP/ASCL genes expressed in the gastrointestinal tract is essential to build the regulatory cascade controlling the differentiation of gastrointestinal progenitors into the different intestinal cell types. The expression of the ARP/ASCL factors was analyzed in zebrafish to identify, among all the ARP/ASCL factors found in the zebrafish genome, those expressed in the gastrointestinal tract. ascl1a was found to be the earliest factor detected in the intestine. Loss-of-function analyses using the pia/ascl1a mutant, revealed that ascl1a is crucial for the differentiation of all secretory cells. Furthermore, we identify a battery of transcription factors expressed during secretory cell differentiation and downstream of ascl1a. Finally, we show that the repression of secretory cell fate by Notch signaling is mediated by the inhibition of ascl1a expression. In conclusion, this work identifies Ascl1a as a key regulator of the secretory cell lineage in the zebrafish intestine, playing the same role as Atoh1 in the mouse intestine. This highlights the diversity in the ARP/ASCL family members acting as cell fate determinants downstream from Notch signaling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2013.01.011DOI Listing
April 2013

Pax4 is not essential for beta-cell differentiation in zebrafish embryos but modulates alpha-cell generation by repressing arx gene expression.

BMC Dev Biol 2012 Dec 17;12:37. Epub 2012 Dec 17.

Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, Giga-Research, University of Liège, 1 avenue de l'Hôpital B34, Sart-Tilman B-4000, Belgium.

Background: Genetic studies in mouse have demonstrated the crucial function of PAX4 in pancreatic cell differentiation. This transcription factor specifies β- and δ-cell fate at the expense of α-cell identity by repressing Arx gene expression and ectopic expression of PAX4 in α-cells is sufficient to convert them into β-cells. Surprisingly, no Pax4 orthologous gene can be found in chicken and Xenopus tropicalis raising the question of the function of pax4 gene in lower vertebrates such as in fish. In the present study, we have analyzed the expression and the function of the orthologous pax4 gene in zebrafish.

Results: pax4 gene is transiently expressed in the pancreas of zebrafish embryos and is mostly restricted to endocrine precursors as well as to some differentiating δ- and ε-cells but was not detected in differentiating β-cells. pax4 knock-down in zebrafish embryos caused a significant increase in α-cells number while having no apparent effect on β- and δ-cell differentiation. This rise of α-cells is due to an up-regulation of the Arx transcription factor. Conversely, knock-down of arx caused to a complete loss of α-cells and a concomitant increase of pax4 expression but had no effect on the number of β- and δ-cells. In addition to the mutual repression between Arx and Pax4, these two transcription factors negatively regulate the transcription of their own gene. Interestingly, disruption of pax4 RNA splicing or of arx RNA splicing by morpholinos targeting exon-intron junction sites caused a blockage of the altered transcripts in cell nuclei allowing an easy characterization of the arx- and pax4-deficient cells. Such analyses demonstrated that arx knock-down in zebrafish does not lead to a switch of cell fate, as reported in mouse, but rather blocks the cells in their differentiation process towards α-cells.

Conclusions: In zebrafish, pax4 is not required for the generation of the first β- and δ-cells deriving from the dorsal pancreatic bud, unlike its crucial role in the differentiation of these cell types in mouse. On the other hand, the mutual repression between Arx and Pax4 is observed in both mouse and zebrafish. These data suggests that the main original function of Pax4 during vertebrate evolution was to modulate the number of pancreatic α-cells and its role in β-cells differentiation appeared later in vertebrate evolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-213X-12-37DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3563606PMC
December 2012

Zebrafish sox9b is crucial for hepatopancreatic duct development and pancreatic endocrine cell regeneration.

Dev Biol 2012 Jun 17;366(2):268-78. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Unit of Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, Giga-Research, University of Liège, 1 avenue de l'Hôpital B34, B-4000 Sart-Tilman, Belgium.

Recent zebrafish studies have shown that the late appearing pancreatic endocrine cells are derived from pancreatic ducts but the regulatory factors involved are still largely unknown. Here, we show that the zebrafish sox9b gene is expressed in pancreatic ducts where it labels the pancreatic Notch-responsive cells previously shown to be progenitors. Inactivation of sox9b disturbs duct formation and impairs regeneration of beta cells from these ducts in larvae. sox9b expression in the midtrunk endoderm appears at the junction of the hepatic and ventral pancreatic buds and, by the end of embryogenesis, labels the hepatopancreatic ductal system as well as the intrapancreatic and intrahepatic ducts. Ductal morphogenesis and differentiation are specifically disrupted in sox9b mutants, with the dysmorphic hepatopancreatic ducts containing misdifferentiated hepatocyte-like and pancreatic-like cells. We also show that maintenance of sox9b expression in the extrapancreatic and intrapancreatic ducts requires FGF and Notch activity, respectively, both pathways known to prevent excessive endocrine differentiation in these ducts. Furthermore, beta cell recovery after specific ablation is severely compromised in sox9b mutant larvae. Our data position sox9b as a key player in the generation of secondary endocrine cells deriving from pancreatic ducts in zebrafish.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.04.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3364407PMC
June 2012

Fast homozygosity mapping and identification of a zebrafish ENU-induced mutation by whole-genome sequencing.

PLoS One 2012 4;7(4):e34671. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Laboratoire de Biologie Moléculaire et de Génie Génétique, Université de Liège, Sart Tilman, Belgium.

Forward genetics using zebrafish is a powerful tool for studying vertebrate development through large-scale mutagenesis. Nonetheless, the identification of the molecular lesion is still laborious and involves time-consuming genetic mapping. Here, we show that high-throughput sequencing of the whole zebrafish genome can directly locate the interval carrying the causative mutation and at the same time pinpoint the molecular lesion. The feasibility of this approach was validated by sequencing the m1045 mutant line that displays a severe hypoplasia of the exocrine pancreas. We generated 13 Gb of sequence, equivalent to an eightfold genomic coverage, from a pool of 50 mutant embryos obtained from a map-cross between the AB mutant carrier and the WIK polymorphic strain. The chromosomal region carrying the causal mutation was localized based on its unique property to display high levels of homozygosity among sequence reads as it derives exclusively from the initial AB mutated allele. We developed an algorithm identifying such a region by calculating a homozygosity score along all chromosomes. This highlighted an 8-Mb window on chromosome 5 with a score close to 1 in the m1045 mutants. The sequence analysis of all genes within this interval revealed a nonsense mutation in the snapc4 gene. Knockdown experiments confirmed the assertion that snapc4 is the gene whose mutation leads to exocrine pancreas hypoplasia. In conclusion, this study constitutes a proof-of-concept that whole-genome sequencing is a fast and effective alternative to the classical positional cloning strategies in zebrafish.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0034671PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3319596PMC
August 2012

Characterization and regulation of the hb9/mnx1 beta-cell progenitor specific enhancer in zebrafish.

Dev Biol 2012 May 9;365(1):290-302. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Institute for Molecular Biology/CMBI, Technikerstr. 25, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria.

Differentiation of insulin producing beta-cells is a genetically well defined process that involves functions of various conserved transcription factors. Still, the transcriptional mechanisms underlying specification and determination of beta-cell fate are poorly defined. Here we provide the description of a beta-cell progenitor specific enhancer as a model to study initial steps of beta-cell differentiation. We show that evolutionary non-conserved upstream sequences of the zebrafish hb9 gene are required and sufficient for regulating expression in beta-cells prior to the onset of insulin expression. This enhancer contains binding sites for paired-box transcription factors and two E-boxes that in EMSA studies show interaction with Pax6b and NeuroD, respectively. We show that Pax6b is a potent activator of endodermal hb9 expression and that this activation depends on the beta-cell enhancer. Using genetic approaches we show that pax6b is crucial for maintenance but not induction of pancreatic hb9 transcription. As loss of Pax6b or Hb9 independently results in the loss of insulin expression, the data reveal a novel cross-talk between the two essential regulators of early beta-cell differentiation. While we find that the known pancreatic E-box binding proteins NeuroD and Ngn3 are not required for hb9 expression we also show that removal of both E-boxes selectively eliminates pancreatic specific reporter expression. The data provide evidence for an Ngn3 independent pathway of beta-cell specification that requires function of currently not specified E-box binding factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.03.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3327876PMC
May 2012

Syntenin, a syndecan adaptor and an Arf6 phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate effector, is essential for epiboly and gastrulation cell movements in zebrafish.

J Cell Sci 2012 Mar 7;125(Pt 5):1129-40. Epub 2012 Mar 7.

Laboratory for Signal Integration in Cell Fate Decision, Department of Human Genetics and VIB, K.U.Leuven, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.

Epiboly, the spreading and the thinning of the blastoderm to cover the yolk cell and close the blastopore in fish embryos, is central to the process of gastrulation. Despite its fundamental importance, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that control this coordinated cell movement. By a combination of knockdown studies and rescue experiments in zebrafish (Danio rerio), we show that epiboly relies on the molecular networking of syntenin with syndecan heparan sulphate proteoglycans, which act as co-receptors for adhesion molecules and growth factors. Furthermore, we show that the interaction of syntenin with phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) and with the small GTPase ADP-ribosylation factor 6 (Arf6), which regulate the endocytic recycling of syndecan, is necessary for epiboly progression. Analysis of the earliest cellular defects suggests a role for syntenin in the autonomous vegetal expansion of the yolk syncytial layer and the rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton in extra-embryonic tissues, but not in embryonic cell fate determination. This study identifies the importance of the syntenin-syndecan-PIP2-Arf6 complex for the progression of fish epiboly and establishes its key role in directional cell movements during early development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jcs.089987DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656617PMC
March 2012

Essential roles of zebrafish bmp2a, fgf10, and fgf24 in the specification of the ventral pancreas.

Mol Biol Cell 2012 Mar 4;23(5):945-54. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Unit of Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, GIGA-Research, University of Liège, B-4000 Sart-Tilman, Belgium, Germany.

In vertebrates, pancreas and liver arise from bipotential progenitors located in the embryonic gut endoderm. Bone morphogenic protein (BMP) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling pathways have been shown to induce hepatic specification while repressing pancreatic fate. Here we show that BMP and FGF factors also play crucial function, at slightly later stages, in the specification of the ventral pancreas. By analyzing the pancreatic markers pdx1, ptf1a, and hlxb9la in different zebrafish models of BMP loss of function, we demonstrate that the BMP pathway is required between 20 and 24 h postfertilization to specify the ventral pancreatic bud. Knockdown experiments show that bmp2a, expressed in the lateral plate mesoderm at these stages, is essential for ventral pancreas specification. Bmp2a action is not restricted to the pancreatic domain and is also required for the proper expression of hepatic markers. By contrast, through the analysis of fgf10(-/-); fgf24(-/-) embryos, we reveal the specific role of these two FGF ligands in the induction of the ventral pancreas and in the repression of the hepatic fate. These mutants display ventral pancreas agenesis and ectopic masses of hepatocytes. Overall, these data highlight the dynamic role of BMP and FGF in the patterning of the hepatopancreatic region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1091/mbc.E11-08-0664DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3290651PMC
March 2012

A feedback loop between the liver-enriched transcription factor network and miR-122 controls hepatocyte differentiation.

Gastroenterology 2012 Jan 12;142(1):119-29. Epub 2011 Sep 12.

De Duve Institute, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.

Background & Aims: Hepatocyte differentiation is controlled by liver-enriched transcription factors (LETFs). We investigated whether LETFs control microRNA expression during development and whether this control is required for hepatocyte differentiation.

Methods: Using in vivo DNA binding assays, we identified miR-122 as a direct target of the LETF hepatocyte nuclear factor (HNF) 6. The role and mechanisms of the HNF6-miR-122 gene cascade in hepatocyte differentiation were studied in vivo and in vitro by gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments, using developing mice and zebrafish as model organisms.

Results: HNF6 and its paralog Onecut2 are strong transcriptional stimulators of miR-122 expression. Specific levels of miR-122 were required for proper progression of hepatocyte differentiation; miR-122 stimulated the expression of hepatocyte-specific genes and most LETFs, including HNF6. This indicates that HNF6 and miR-122 form a positive feedback loop. Stimulation of hepatocyte differentiation by miR-122 was lost in HNF6-null mice, revealing that a transcription factor can mediate microRNA function. All hepatocyte-specific genes whose expression was stimulated by miR-122 bound HNF6 in vivo, confirming their direct regulation by this factor.

Conclusions: Hepatocyte differentiation is directed by a positive feedback loop that includes a transcription factor (HNF6) and a microRNA (miR-122) that are specifically expressed in liver. These findings could lead to methods to induce differentiation of hepatocytes in vitro and improve our understanding of liver cell dedifferentiation in pathologic conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.09.001DOI Listing
January 2012

The Pax6b homeodomain is dispensable for pancreatic endocrine cell differentiation in zebrafish.

J Biol Chem 2010 Apr 22;285(18):13863-73. Epub 2010 Feb 22.

Unit of Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, University of Liège, GIGA-R, B34, Avenue de l'Hôpital 1, B-4000 Liège, Belgium.

Pax6 is a well conserved transcription factor that contains two DNA-binding domains, a paired domain and a homeodomain, and plays a key role in the development of eye, brain, and pancreas in vertebrates. The recent identification of the zebrafish sunrise mutant, harboring a mutation in the pax6b homeobox and presenting eye abnormalities but no obvious pancreatic defects, raised a question about the role of pax6b in zebrafish pancreas. We show here that pax6b does play an essential role in pancreatic endocrine cell differentiation, as revealed by the phenotype of a novel zebrafish pax6b null mutant and of embryos injected with pax6b morpholinos. Pax6b-depleted embryos have almost no beta cells, a strongly reduced number of delta cells, and a significant increase of epsilon cells. Through the use of various morpholinos targeting intron-exon junctions, pax6b RNA splicing was perturbed at several sites, leading either to retention of intronic sequences or to deletion of exonic sequences in the pax6b transcript. By this strategy, we show that deletion of the Pax6b homeodomain in zebrafish embryos does not disturb pancreas development, whereas lens formation is strongly affected. These data thus provide the explanation for the lack of pancreatic defects in the sunrise pax6b mutants. In addition, partial reduction of Pax6b function in zebrafish embryos performed by injection of small amounts of pax6b morpholinos caused a clear rise in alpha cell number and in glucagon expression, emphasizing the importance of the fine tuning of the Pax6b level to its biological activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M110.108019DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859549PMC
April 2010

Rfx6 is an Ngn3-dependent winged helix transcription factor required for pancreatic islet cell development.

Development 2010 Jan;137(2):203-12

Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cell Biology (IGBMC), Inserm U-964, CNRS UMR7104, University of Strasbourg, Illkirch, France.

The transcription factor neurogenin 3 (Neurog3 or Ngn3) controls islet cell fate specification in multipotent pancreatic progenitor cells in the mouse embryo. However, our knowledge of the genetic programs implemented by Ngn3, which control generic and islet subtype-specific properties, is still fragmentary. Gene expression profiling in isolated Ngn3-positive progenitor cells resulted in the identification of the uncharacterized winged helix transcription factor Rfx6. Rfx6 is initially expressed broadly in the gut endoderm, notably in Pdx1-positive cells in the developing pancreatic buds, and then becomes progressively restricted to the endocrine lineage, suggesting a dual function in both endoderm development and islet cell differentiation. Rfx6 is found in postmitotic islet progenitor cells in the embryo and is maintained in all developing and adult islet cell types. Rfx6 is dependent on Ngn3 and acts upstream of or in parallel with NeuroD, Pax4 and Arx transcription factors during islet cell differentiation. In zebrafish, the Rfx6 ortholog is similarly found in progenitors and hormone expressing cells of the islet lineage. Loss-of-function studies in zebrafish revealed that rfx6 is required for the differentiation of glucagon-, ghrelin- and somatostatin-expressing cells, which, in the absence of rfx6, are blocked at the progenitor stage. By contrast, beta cells, whose number is only slightly reduced, were no longer clustered in a compact islet. These data unveil Rfx6 as a novel regulator of islet cell development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/dev.041673DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2799156PMC
January 2010

Expression of zebrafish pax6b in pancreas is regulated by two enhancers containing highly conserved cis-elements bound by PDX1, PBX and PREP factors.

BMC Dev Biol 2008 May 16;8:53. Epub 2008 May 16.

Unit of Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, University of Liège, Giga-R, B34, Avenue de l'hôpital, 1, B-4000 Liège, Belgium.

Background: PAX6 is a transcription factor playing a crucial role in the development of the eye and in the differentiation of the pancreatic endocrine cells as well as of enteroendocrine cells. Studies on the mouse Pax6 gene have shown that sequences upstream from the P0 promoter are required for expression in the lens and the pancreas; but there remain discrepancies regarding the precise location of the pancreatic regulatory elements.

Results: Due to genome duplication in the evolution of ray-finned fishes, zebrafish has two pax6 genes, pax6a and pax6b. While both zebrafish pax6 genes are expressed in the developing eye and nervous system, only pax6b is expressed in the endocrine cells of the pancreas. To investigate the cause of this differential expression, we used a combination of in silico, in vivo and in vitro approaches. We show that the pax6b P0 promoter targets expression to endocrine pancreatic cells and also to enteroendocrine cells, retinal neurons and the telencephalon of transgenic zebrafish. Deletion analyses indicate that strong pancreatic expression of the pax6b gene relies on the combined action of two conserved regulatory enhancers, called regions A and C. By means of gel shift assays, we detected binding of the homeoproteins PDX1, PBX and PREP to several cis-elements of these regions. In constrast, regions A and C of the zebrafish pax6a gene are not active in the pancreas, this difference being attributable to sequence divergences within two cis-elements binding the pancreatic homeoprotein PDX1.

Conclusion: Our data indicate a conserved role of enhancers A and C in the pancreatic expression of pax6b and emphasize the importance of the homeoproteins PBX and PREP cooperating with PDX1, in activating pax6b expression in endocrine pancreatic cells. This study also provides a striking example of how adaptative evolution of gene regulatory sequences upon gene duplication progressively leads to subfunctionalization of the paralogous gene pair.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-213X-8-53DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2409314PMC
May 2008

Zebrafish Sox7 and Sox18 function together to control arterial-venous identity.

Dev Biol 2008 May 7;317(2):405-16. Epub 2008 Feb 7.

GIGA-Research - Unité de Biologie Moléculaire et Génie Génétique, Tour B34, Université de Liège, B-4000 Sart Tilman, Belgium.

Sox7 and Sox18 are members of the F-subgroup of Sox transcription factors family and are mostly expressed in endothelial compartments. In humans, dominant mutations in Sox18 are the underlying cause of the severe hypotrichosis-lymphedema-telangiectasia disorder characterized by vascular defects. However little is known about which vasculogenic processes Sox7 and Sox18 regulate in vivo. We cloned the orthologs of Sox7 and Sox18 in zebrafish, analysed their expression pattern and performed functional analyses. Both genes are expressed in the lateral plate mesoderm during somitogenesis. At later stages, Sox18 is expressed in all axial vessels whereas Sox7 expression is mainly restricted to the dorsal aorta. Knockdown of Sox7 or Sox18 alone failed to reveal any phenotype. In contrast, blocking the two genes simultaneously led to embryos displaying dysmorphogenesis of the proximal aorta and arteriovenous shunts, all of which can account for the lack of circulation observed in the trunk and tail. Gene expression analyses performed with general endothelial markers on double morphants revealed that Sox7 and Sox18 are dispensable for the initial specification and positioning of the major trunk vessels. However, morphants display ectopic expression of the venous Flt4 marker in the dorsal aorta and a concomitant reduction of the artery-specific markers EphrinB2a and Gridlock. The striking similarities between the phenotype of Sox7/Sox18 morphants and Gridlock mutants strongly suggest that Sox7 and Sox18 control arterial-venous identity by regulating Gridlock expression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.01.028DOI Listing
May 2008

Reciprocal endoderm-mesoderm interactions mediated by fgf24 and fgf10 govern pancreas development.

Development 2007 Nov 17;134(22):4011-21. Epub 2007 Oct 17.

GIGA-Research-Unité de Biologie Moléculaire et Génie Génétique, Tour B34, Université de Liège, B-4000 Sart Tilman, Belgium.

In amniotes, the pancreatic mesenchyme plays a crucial role in pancreatic epithelium growth, notably through the secretion of fibroblast growth factors. However, the factors involved in the formation of the pancreatic mesenchyme are still largely unknown. In this study, we characterize, in zebrafish embryos, the pancreatic lateral plate mesoderm, which is located adjacent to the ventral pancreatic bud and is essential for its specification and growth. We firstly show that the endoderm, by expressing the fgf24 gene at early stages, triggers the patterning of the pancreatic lateral plate mesoderm. Based on the expression of isl1, fgf10 and meis genes, this tissue is analogous to the murine pancreatic mesenchyme. Secondly, Fgf10 acts redundantly with Fgf24 in the pancreatic lateral plate mesoderm and they are both required to specify the ventral pancreas. Our results unveil sequential signaling between the endoderm and mesoderm that is critical for the specification and growth of the ventral pancreas, and explain why the zebrafish ventral pancreatic bud generates the whole exocrine tissue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/dev.007823DOI Listing
November 2007

Sesn1 is a novel gene for left-right asymmetry and mediating nodal signaling.

Hum Mol Genet 2006 Nov 12;15(22):3369-77. Epub 2006 Oct 12.

Department of Human Genetics, Clinical Genetics Unit, University of Leuven, Belgium.

Remarkable progress has been made in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying left-right asymmetry in vertebrate animal models but little is known on left-right axis formation in humans. Previously, we identified SESN1 (also known as PA26) as a candidate gene for heterotaxia by positional cloning of the breakpoint regions of a de novo translocation in a heterotaxia patient. In this study, we show by means of a zebrafish sesn1-knockdown model that Sesn1 is required for normal embryonic left-right determination. In this model, developmental defects and expression data of genes implicated in vertebrate left-right asymmetry indicate a role for Sesn1 in mediating Nodal signaling. In the lateral plate mesoderm, Nodal signaling plays a central role in left-right axis formation in vertebrates and is mediated by FoxH1 transcriptional induction. In line with this, we show that Sesn1 physically interacts with FoxH1 or a FoxH1-containing complex. Mutation analysis in a panel of 234 patients with isolated heterotaxia did not reveal mutations, indicating that these are only exceptional causes of human heterotaxia. In this study, we identify SESN1 as an indispensable gene for vertebrate left-right asymmetry and a new player in mediating Nodal signaling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddl413DOI Listing
November 2006

Cloning and embryonic expression of zebrafish PLAG genes.

Gene Expr Patterns 2006 Mar 27;6(3):267-76. Epub 2005 Dec 27.

Laboratoire de Biologie Moléculaire et Génie Génétique, Center for Biomedical Integrated Genoproteomics, University of Liège, B6 4000 Liège (Sart-Tilman), Belgium.

PLAG transcription factors play important roles in oncogenesis. To date three members of this subfamily of zinc finger proteins have been identified in humans and mice: PLAG1, PLAGL1 and PLAGL2. In this study, we identified zebrafish orthologs of PLAG1 and PLAGL2 and a novel member of this family, PLAGX. We examined the temporal expression of these three genes by quantitative real time RT-PCR and found that all three genes are maternally provided, expressed at low level during early somitogenesis and, during late somitogenesis and beyond, PLAG expression increases to reach a plateau level around 5 dpf. Whole mount in situ experiments revealed that PLAG1, PLAGL2 and PLAGX display a similar pattern of expression characterized by a low ubiquitous expression overcame by high expression in some restricted compartments such as the ventricular zone of the brain, the pectoral fin buds, the developing pharyngeal arches and the axial vasculature. We show that this pattern resembles the one observed for the proliferative marker PCNA, suggesting that the PLAG genes are expressed more strongly in zones of active proliferation. This hypothesis was proven for the ventricular zone shown to be a highly proliferative zone using the anti-phosphohistone H3 antibody that detects cells in mitosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.modgep.2005.08.001DOI Listing
March 2006

sox4b is a key player of pancreatic alpha cell differentiation in zebrafish.

Dev Biol 2005 Sep;285(1):211-23

Laboratoire de Biologie Moléculaire et de Génie Génétique, Center of Biomedical Integrative Genoproteomics (CBIG), Université de Liège, Institut de Chimie, Bâtiment B6, 4000 Liège (Sart-Tilman), Belgium.

Pancreas development relies on a network of transcription factors belonging mainly to the Homeodomain and basic Helix-Loop-Helix families. We show in this study that, in zebrafish, sox4, a member of the SRY-like HMG-box (SOX) family, is required for proper endocrine cell differentiation. We found that two genes orthologous to mammalian Sox4 are present in zebrafish and that only one of them, sox4b, is strongly expressed in the pancreatic anlage. Transcripts of sox4b were detected in mid-trunk endoderm from the 5-somite stage, well before the onset of expression of the early pancreatic gene pdx-1. Furthermore, by fluorescent double in situ hybridization, we found that expression of sox4b is mostly restricted to precursors of the endocrine compartment. This expression is not maintained in differentiated cells although transient expression can be detected in alpha cells and some beta cells. That sox4b-expressing cells belong to the endocrine lineage is further illustrated by their absence from the pancreata of slow-muscle-omitted mutant embryos, which specifically lack all early endocrine markers while retaining expression of exocrine markers. The involvement of sox4b in cell differentiation is suggested firstly by its up-regulation in mind bomb mutant embryos displaying accelerated pancreatic cell differentiation. In addition, sox4b knock-down leads to a drastic reduction in glucagon expression, while other pancreatic markers including insulin, somatostatin, and trypsin are not significantly affected. This disruption of alpha cell differentiation is due to down-regulation of the homeobox arx gene specifically in the pancreas. Taken together, these data demonstrate that, in zebrafish, sox4b is expressed transiently during endocrine cell differentiation and plays a crucial role in the generation of alpha endocrine cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2005.06.024DOI Listing
September 2005

Evolutionary conserved role of ptf1a in the specification of exocrine pancreatic fates.

Dev Biol 2004 Apr;268(1):174-84

Dipartimento di Biologia, Universita' degli Studi di Padova, Padova I-35131, Italy.

We have characterized and mapped the zebrafish ptf1a gene, analyzed its embryonic expression, and studied its role in pancreas development. In situ hybridization experiments show that from the 12-somite stage to 48 hpf, ptf1a is dynamically expressed in the spinal cord, hindbrain, cerebellum, retina, and pancreas of zebrafish embryos. Within the endoderm, ptf1a is initially expressed at 32 hpf in the ventral portion of the pdx1 expression domain; ptf1a is expressed in a subset of cells located on the left side of the embryo posteriorly to the liver primordium and anteriorly to the endocrine islet that arises from the posterodorsal pancreatic anlage. Then the ptf1a expression domain buds giving rise to the anteroventral pancreatic anlage that grows posteriorly to eventually engulf the endocrine islet. By 72 hpf, ptf1a continues to be expressed in the exocrine compartment derived from the anteroventral anlage. Morpholino-induced ptf1a loss of function suppresses the expression of the exocrine markers, while the endocrine markers in the islet are unaffected. In mind bomb (mib) mutants, in which delta-mediated notch signalling is defective [Dev. Cell 4 (2003) 67], ptf1a is normally expressed. In addition, the slow-muscle-omitted (smu) mutants that lack expression of endocrine markers because of a defective hedgehog signalling [Curr. Biol. 11(2001) 1358] exhibit normal levels of ptf1a. This indicates that hedgehog signaling plays a different genetic role in the specification of the anteroventral (mostly exocrine) and posterodorsal (endocrine) pancreatic anlagen.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2003.12.016DOI Listing
April 2004

Processing by proprotein convertases is required for glypican-3 modulation of cell survival, Wnt signaling, and gastrulation movements.

J Cell Biol 2003 Nov;163(3):625-35

Department of Human Genetics, University of Leuven and Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.

Glypican (GPC)-3 inhibits cell proliferation and regulates cell survival during development. This action is demonstrated by GPC3 loss-of-function mutations in humans and mice. Here, we show that the GPC3 core protein is processed by a furinlike convertase. This processing is essential for GPC3 modulating Wnt signaling and cell survival in vitro and for supporting embryonic cell movements in zebrafish. The processed GPC3 core protein is necessary and sufficient for the cell-specific induction of apoptosis, but in vitro effects on canonical and noncanonical Wnt signaling additionally require substitution of the core protein with heparan sulfate. Wnt 5A physically associates only with processed GPC3, and only a form of GPC3 that can be processed by a convertase is able to rescue epiboly and convergence/extension movements in GPC3 morphant embryos. Our data imply that the Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome may in part result from a loss of GPC3 controls on Wnt signaling, and suggest that this function requires the cooperation of both the protein and the heparan sulfate moieties of the proteoglycan.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1083/jcb.200302152DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2173654PMC
November 2003