Defects of the ventral body wall are prevalent birth anomalies marked by deficiencies in body wall closure, hypoplasia of the abdominal musculature and multiple malformations across a gamut of organs. However, the mechanisms underlying ventral body wall defects remain elusive. Here, we investigated the role of Wnt signaling in ventral body wall development by inactivating Wls or β-catenin in murine abdominal ectoderm. The loss of Wls in the ventral epithelium, which blocks the secretion of Wnt proteins, resulted in dysgenesis of ventral musculature and genito-urinary tract during embryonic development. Molecular analyses revealed that the dermis and myogenic differentiation in the underlying mesenchymal progenitor cells was perturbed by the loss of ectodermal Wls. The activity of the Wnt-Pitx2 axis was impaired in the ventral mesenchyme of the mutant body wall, which partially accounted for the defects in ventral musculature formation. In contrast, epithelial depletion of β-catenin or Wnt5a did not resemble the body wall defects in the ectodermal Wls mutant. These findings indicate that ectodermal Wnt signaling instructs the underlying mesodermal specification and abdominal musculature formation during ventral body wall development, adding evidence to the theory that ectoderm-mesenchyme signaling is a potential unifying mechanism for the origin of ventral body wall defects.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Major Fundamental Research 973 program of China under Grants [ 2014CB942902 and 2012CB966903 ], and by Grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China [ 31171396 , 81121001 and 31100624 ].
- Abdominal musculature
- Ventral body wall