Early patterning of the vertebrate midbrain and cerebellum is regulated by a mid/hindbrain organizer that produces three fibroblast growth factors (FGF8, FGF17 and FGF18). The mechanism by which each FGF contributes to patterning the midbrain, and induces a cerebellum in rhombomere 1 (r1) is not clear. We and others have found that FGF8b can transform the midbrain into a cerebellum fate, whereas FGF8a can promote midbrain development. In this study we used a chick electroporation assay and in vitro mouse brain explant experiments to compare the activity of FGF17b and FGF18 to FGF8a and FGF8b. First, FGF8b is the only protein that can induce the r1 gene Gbx2 and strongly activate the pathway inhibitors Spry1/2, as well as repress the midbrain gene Otx2. Consistent with previous studies that indicated high level FGF signaling is required to induce these gene expression changes, electroporation of activated FGFRs produce similar gene expression changes to FGF8b. Second, FGF8b extends the organizer along the junction between the induced Gbx2 domain and the remaining Otx2 region in the midbrain, correlating with cerebellum development. By contrast, FGF17b and FGF18 mimic FGF8a by causing expansion of the midbrain and upregulating midbrain gene expression. This result is consistent with Fgf17 and Fgf18 being expressed in the midbrain and not just in r1 as Fgf8 is. Third, analysis of gene expression in mouse brain explants with beads soaked in FGF8b or FGF17b showed that the distinct activities of FGF17b and FGF8b are not due to differences in the amount of FGF17b protein produced in vivo. Finally, brain explants were used to define a positive feedback loop involving FGF8b mediated upregulation of Fgf18, and two negative feedback loops that include repression of Fgfr2/3 and direct induction of Spry1/2. As Fgf17 and Fgf18 are co-expressed with Fgf8 in many tissues, our studies have broad implications for how these FGFs differentially control development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology