Sall4-Gli3 system in early limb progenitors is essential for the development of limb skeletal elements

Ryutaro Akiyama, Hiroko Kawakami, Julia Wong, Isao Oishi, Ryuichi Nishinakamura, Yasuhiko Kawakami

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54 Scopus citations


Limb skeletal elements originate from the limb progenitor cells, which undergo expansion and patterning to develop each skeletal element. Posterior-distal skeletal elements, such as the ulna/fibula and posterior digits develop in a Sonic hedgehog (Shh)-dependent manner. However, it is poorly understood how anterior-proximal elements, such as the humerus/femur, the radius/tibia and the anterior digits, are developed. Here we show that the zinc finger factors Sall4 and Gli3 cooperate for proper development of the anterior-proximal skeletal elements and also function upstream of Shh-dependent posterior skeletal element development. Conditional inactivation of Sall4 in the mesoderm before limb outgrowth caused severe defects in the anterior-proximal skeletal elements in the hindlimb. We found that Gli3 expression is reduced in Sall4 mutant hindlimbs, but not in forelimbs. This reduction caused posteriorization of nascent hindlimb buds, which is correlated with a loss of anterior digits. In proximal development, Sall4 integrates Gli3 and the Plzf-Hox system, in addition to proliferative expansion of cells in the mesenchymal core of nascent hindlimb buds. Whereas forelimbs developed normally in Sall4 mutants, further genetic analysis identified that the Sall4-Gli3 system is a common regulator of the early limb progenitor cells in both forelimbs and hindlimbs. The Sall4-Gli3 system also functions upstream of the Shh-expressing ZPA and the Fgf8-expressing AER in fore- and hindlimbs. Therefore, our study identified a critical role of the Sall4-Gli3 system at the early steps of limb development for proper development of the appendicular skeletal elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5075-5080
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 21 2015

Bibliographical note

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© 2015, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Appendicular skeletal elements
  • Gli3
  • Limb progenitors
  • Plzf-Hox
  • Sall4


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