Isl1 expression marks progenitor populations in developing embryos. In this study, we investigated the contribution of Isl1-expressing cells that utilize the β-catenin pathway to skeletal development. Inactivation of β-catenin in Isl1-expressing cells caused agenesis of the hindlimb skeleton and absence of the lower jaw (agnathia). In the hindlimb, Isl1-lineages broadly contributed to the mesenchyme; however, deletion of β-catenin in the Isl1-lineage caused cell death only in a discrete posterior domain of nascent hindlimb bud mesenchyme. We found that the loss of posterior mesenchyme, which gives rise to Shh-expressing posterior organizer tissue, caused loss of posterior gene expression and failure to expand chondrogenic precursor cells, leading to severe truncation of the hindlimb. In facial tissues, Isl1-expressing cells broadly contributed to facial epithelium. We found reduced nuclear β-catenin accumulation and loss of Fgf8 expression in mandibular epithelium of Isl1-/- embryos. Inactivating β-catenin in Isl1-expressing epithelium caused both loss of epithelial Fgf8 expression and death of mesenchymal cells in the mandibular arch without affecting epithelial proliferation and survival. These results suggest a Isl1→β-catenin→Fgf8 pathway that regulates mesenchymal survival and development of the lower jaw in the mandibular epithelium. By contrast, activating β-catenin signaling in Isl1-lineages caused activation of Fgf8 broadly in facial epithelium. Our results provide evidence that, despite its broad contribution to hindlimb mesenchyme and facial epithelium, the Isl1-β-catenin pathway regulates skeletal development of the hindlimb and lower jaw through discrete populations of cells that give rise to Shh-expressing posterior hindlimb mesenchyme and Fgf8-expressing mandibular epithelium.
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We are grateful to Dr. Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte for in situ probes, and Dr. Yasushi Nakagawa and Dr. Michael O'Connor for the use of their equipment. We thank Thu Quach, Elizabeth West, Jenna Matson, Julia Wong and Brian Schmidt for their excellent technical support, and Austin Johnson for editorial assistance. This work was supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of NIH to A.P. ( DE016601 ) and by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of NIH to Y.K. ( R01AR064195 ).
- Branchial arch