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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 2;105(48):18806-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807345105. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

An endothelin-1 switch specifies maxillomandibular identity.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Chemistry and Metabolism, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


Articulated jaws are highly conserved structures characteristic of gnathostome evolution. Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions within the first pharyngeal arch (PA1) instruct cephalic neural crest cells (CNCCs) to form the different skeletal elements of the jaws. The endothelin-1 (Edn1)/endothelin receptor type-A (Ednra)-->Dlx5/6-->Hand2 signaling pathway is necessary for lower jaw formation. Here, we show that the Edn1 signaling is sufficient for the conversion of the maxillary arch to mandibular identity. Constitutive activation of Ednra induced the transformation of upper jaw, maxillary, structures into lower jaw, mandibular, structures with duplicated Meckel's cartilage and dermatocranial jaws constituted by 4 dentary bones. Misexpression of Hand2 in the Ednra domain caused a similar transformation. Skeletal transformations are accompanied by neuromuscular remodeling. Ednra is expressed by most CNCCs, but its constitutive activation affects predominantly PA1. We conclude that after migration CNCCs are not all equivalent, suggesting that their specification occurs in sequential steps. Also, we show that, within PA1, CNCCs are competent to form both mandibular and maxillary structures and that an Edn1 switch is responsible for the choice of either morphogenetic program.

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