β-catenin and early development in the Gastropod, Crepidula fornicata

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Abstract

Synopsis This study describes the early expression and function of β-catenin in the gastropod, Crepidula fornicata.ln other bilaterians β-catenin functions in cell adhesion, gastrulation, and cell signaling, which is related to the establishment of the dorso-ventral axis and mesendoderm. Here, we studied the distribution of β-catenin mRNA and protein in C. fornicata via whole mount in situ hybridization and by expressing GFP-tagged β-catenin in vivo. During early cleavage, β-catenin mRNA and protein appear to be broadly localized to all cells in the early embryo. The mRNA tends to be concentrated at inter-phase centrosomes in these cells. At later stages, the mRNA is predominantly in the vegetal macromeres, and subsequently in the rudiment of the hindgut, stomodeum, and velar lobes. Expression of full-length GFP-tagged protein suggests that there is no active mechanism to degrade β-catenin within cells of the early embryos prior to the 25-cell stage. However, by the second day of development, when the fourth quartet micromeres have formed, β-catenin becomes selectively stabilized in the progeny of the 4d mesentoblast (e.g., ML and MR and their daughters) and is missing from most other blastomeres, including vegetal macromeres. Over the next 2 days of development, during subsequent divisions of 4d, β-catenin protein becomes progressively degraded, along the proximo-distal axes, within the progeny of the paired mesendodermal bands. The cells located at the tips of the mesodermal bands (2 mL2 and 2 mR2) are the last to contain this protein, which is no longer detected after 4 days of development. In animals like C. fornicata, which undergo a spiral cleavage program (e.g., molluscs, annelids, nemerteans, and polyclad flatworms), the mesentoblast or 4d cell represents the progenitor of endomesoderm (forming hindgut, internal and external kidneys, and various muscles). Therefore, the selective stabilization of β-catenin in the progeny of 4d in C. fornicata is consistent with arguments that a basic, ancestral role of β-catenin lies in the formation of endomesodermal fates. Experiments using a truncated β-catenin clone show that the regions located in the C-terminus, distal to the 11th armadillo repeat, are required for normal stabilization/degradation of β-catenin protein within the embryo. Microinjection of translation blocking β-catenin morpholinos into zygotes led to the down-regulation of β-catenin expression. This resulted in the subsequent failure of gastrulation, but did not interfere with the formation and early cleavage of 4d, although there were no discernable differentiated cell fates in these defective embryos. These results are compared with those obtained in other metazoans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-719
Number of pages13
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Volume50
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science

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