Gene Expression in Embryonic Chick Heart Development
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Establishment of the biochemical and molecular nature of cardiac development is essential for us to understand the relationship between genetic and morphological aspects of heart formation. The molecular mechanisms that underly heart development are still not clearly defined. To address this issue we have used two approaches to identify genes involved in early chick cardiac development. Differential display previously conducted in our laboratory led to the identification of two gene fragments differentially expressed in the heart that are further described in this thesis. The full-length cDNA sequence of both eukaryotic translation initiation factor-2b (eIF-2b) and NADH cytochrome b5 reductase (b5R) were isolated using library screening. The upreglation of these genes during heart development is expected given the heart is the first functional organ to form in vertebrates and protein synthesis and cell metabolism at this stage of development is maximal. Limitations in the differential display approach led to the development and optimisation of a subtractive hybridisation approach for use with small amounts of cells or tissue. To focus on cardiac gene expression during the initial phases of heart development, subtractive hybridization was performed between the cardiogenic lateral plate mesoderm of Hamburger and Hamilton stage 4 embryos and the heart primordia of stage 9 embryos. Of the 87 independent clones identified by this procedure, 59 matched known sequences with high homology, 25 matched unknown expressed sequence tag (EST) sequences with high homology, and 3 did not match any known sequence on the database. Known genes isolated included those involved in transcription, translation, cell signalling, RNA processing, and energy production. Two of these genes, high mobility group phosphoprotein A2 (HMGA2) and C1-20C, an unknown gene, were chosen for further characterisation. The role of each gene in early chick heart development and indeed development in general, was addressed using techniques such as in situ hybridisation, transfection analysis, in ovo electroporation and RNAi. HMGA2 is a nuclear phosphoprotein commonly referred to as an architectural transcription factor due to its ability to modulate DNA conformation. In keeping with this function, HMGA2/GFP fusion protein was shown to localise to the nucleus and in particular, the nucleolus. In situ hybridisation analysis suggested a role for HMGA2 in heart and somite development. HMGA2 expression was first detected at HH stage 5 in the lateral plate mesoderm, a region synonymous with cells specified to the cardiac fate. HMGA2 was also strongly expressed in the presomitic segmental plate mesoderm and as somites developed from the segmental plate mesoderm, the expression of HMGA2 showed an increasingly more restricted domain corresponding to the level of maturation of the somite. Restriction of HMGA2 expression was first detected in the dorsal region of the epithelial somite, then the dorsomedial lip of the dermomyotome, and finally the migrating epaxial myotome cells. The novel intronless gene, C1-20C, predicts a protein of 148 amino acids containing a putative zinc finger binding domain and prenyl binding motif. Zinc binding assays showed that the zinc finger domain of C1-20C/MBP fusion protein bound over six times the quantity of zinc compared to MBP alone, although not in a 1:1 stoichiometric molar ratio. C1-20C/GFP fusion protein was shown to localise to as yet unidentified intracellular cytoplasmic vesicular compartments. These compartments did not colocalise with the endosome/lysosome pathway, aparently ruling out a role for C1-20C in protein trafficking, recycling or degradation. Expression of C1-20C in the chick embryo suggests a possible role in heart and notochord development and preliminary results using siRNA suggest that C1-20C is involved in normal heart looping.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Sciences
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high mobility group phosphoprotein A2