Dev Biol 2012 Sep 9;369(1):91-100. Epub 2012 Jun 9.
Departments of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, 's Gravendijkwal 230, 3015 CE Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Wnt5a is essential during embryonic development, as indicated by mouse Wnt5a knockout embryos displaying outgrowth defects of multiple structures including the gut. The dynamics of Wnt5a involvement in these processes is unclear, and perinatal lethality of Wnt5a knockout embryos has hampered investigation of Wnt5a during postnatal stages in vivo. Although in vitro studies have suggested a relevant role for Wnt5a postnatally, solid evidence for a significant impact of Wnt5a within the complexity of an adult organism is lacking. We generated a tightly-regulated inducible Wnt5a transgenic mouse model and investigated the effects of Wnt5a induction during different time-frames of embryonic development and in adult mice, focusing on the gastrointestinal tract. When induced in embryos from 10.5 dpc onwards, Wnt5a expression led to severe outgrowth defects affecting the gastrointestinal tracts, limbs, facial structures and tails, closely resembling the defects observed in Wnt5a knockout mice. However, Wnt5a induction from 13.5 dpc onwards did not cause this phenotype, indicating that the most critical period for Wnt5a in embryonic development is prior to 13.5 dpc. In adult mice, induced Wnt5a expression did not reveal abnormalities, providing the first in vivo evidence that Wnt5a has no major impact on mouse intestinal homeostasis postnatally. Protein expression of Wnt5a receptor Ror2 was strongly reduced in adult intestine compared to embryonic stages. Moreover, we uncovered a regulatory process where induction of Wnt5a causes downregulation of its receptor Ror2. Taken together, our results indicate a role for Wnt5a during a restricted time-frame of embryonic development, but suggest no impact during homeostatic postnatal stages.