The vertebrate retina is generated by retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), which produce >100 cell types. Although some RPCs produce many cell types, other RPCs produce restricted types of daughter cells, such as a cone photoreceptor and a horizontal cell (HC). We used genome-wide assays of chromatin structure to compare the profiles of a restricted cone/HC RPC and those of other RPCs in chicks. These data nominated regions of regulatory activity, which were tested in tissue, leading to the identification of many cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) active in cone/HC RPCs and developing cones. Two transcription factors, Otx2 and Oc1, were found to bind to many of these CRMs, including those near genes important for cone development and function, and their binding sites were required for activity. We also found that Otx2 has a predicted autoregulatory CRM. These results suggest that Otx2, Oc1 and possibly other Onecut proteins have a broad role in coordinating cone development and function. The many newly discovered CRMs for cones are potentially useful reagents for gene therapy of cone diseases.
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression has a crucial role allowing for the self-renewal and differentiation of stem and progenitor populations during organogenesis. The mammalian kidney maintains a population of self-renewing stem cells that differentiate to give rise to thousands of nephrons, which are the functional units that carry out filtration to maintain physiological homeostasis. The polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) epigenetically represses gene expression during development by placing the H3K27me3 mark on histone H3 at promoter and enhancer sites, resulting in gene silencing. To understand the role of PRC2 in nephron differentiation, we conditionally inactivated the Eed gene, which encodes a nonredundant component of the PRC2 complex, in nephron progenitor cells. Resultant kidneys were smaller and showed premature loss of progenitor cells. The progenitors in Eedmutant mice that were induced to differentiate did not develop into properly formed nephrons. Lhx1, normally expressed in the renal vesicle, was overexpressed in kidneys of Eed mutant mice. Thus, PRC2 has a crucial role in suppressing the expression of genes that maintain the progenitor state, allowing nephron differentiation to proceed.
The ablation of Apc function or the constitutive activation of beta-catenin in embryonic mouse oral epithelium results in supernumerary tooth formation, but the underlying mechanisms and whether adult tissues retain this potential are unknown. Here we show that supernumerary teeth can form from multiple regions of the jaw and that they are properly mineralized, vascularized, innervated and can start to form roots. Even adult dental tissues can form new teeth in response to either epithelial Apc loss-of-function or beta-catenin activation, and the effect of Apc deficiency is mediated by beta-catenin. The formation of supernumerary teeth via Apc loss-of-function is non-cell-autonomous. A small number of Apc-deficient cells is sufficient to induce surrounding wild-type epithelial and mesenchymal cells to participate in the formation of new teeth. Strikingly, Msx1, which is necessary for endogenous tooth development, is dispensable for supernumerary tooth formation. In addition, we identify Fgf8, a known tooth initiation marker, as a direct target of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling. These studies identify key mechanistic features responsible for supernumerary tooth formation.