Spatial regulation of cell cohesion by Wnt5a during second heart field progenitor deployment

Academic Article


  • Wnt5a, a non-canonical Wnt ligand critical for outflow tract (OFT) morphogenesis, is expressed specifically in second heart field (SHF) progenitors in the caudal splanchnic mesoderm (SpM) near the inflow tract (IFT). Using a conditional Wnt5a gain of function (GOF) allele and Islet1-Cre, we broadly over-expressed Wnt5a throughout the SHF lineage, including the entire SpM between the IFT and OFT. Wnt5a over-expression in Wnt5a null mutants can rescue the cell polarity and actin polymerization defects as well as severe SpM shortening, but fails to rescue OFT shortening. Moreover, Wnt5a over-expression in wild-type background is able to cause OFT shortening. We find that Wnt5a over-expression does not perturb SHF cell proliferation, apoptosis or differentiation, but affects the deployment of SHF cells by causing them to accumulate into a large bulge at the rostral SpM and fail to enter the OFT. Our immunostaining analyses suggest an inverse correlation between cell cohesion and Wnt5a level in the wild-type SpM. Ectopic Wnt5a expression in the rostral SpM of Wn5a-GOF mutants diminishes the upregulation of adherens junction; whereas loss of Wnt5a in Wnt5a null mutants causes premature increase in adherens junction level in the caudal SpM. Over-expression of mouse Wnt5a in Xenopus animal cap cells also reduces C-cadherin distribution on the plasma membrane without affecting its overall protein level, suggesting that Wnt5a may play an evolutionarily conserved role in controlling the cell surface level of cadherin to modulate cell cohesion during tissue morphogenesis. Collectively, our data indicate that restricted expression of Wnt5a in the caudal SpM is essential for normal OFT morphogenesis, and uncover a novel function of spatially regulated cell cohesion by Wnt5a in driving the deployment of SHF cells from the SpM into the OFT.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Li D; Sinha T; Ajima R; Seo HS; Yamaguchi TP; Wang J
  • Start Page

  • 18
  • End Page

  • 31
  • Volume

  • 412
  • Issue

  • 1