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Development. 2004 Nov;131(22):5639-47.

Embryonic signaling centers expressing BMP, WNT and FGF proteins interact to pattern the cerebral cortex.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Physiology, Committees on Neurobiology and Developmental Biology, University of Chicago, 947 E 58th Street, MC0926, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Recent findings implicate embryonic signaling centers in patterning the mammalian cerebral cortex. We used mouse in utero electroporation and mutant analysis to test whether cortical signaling sources interact to regulate one another. We identified interactions between the cortical hem, rich in Wingless-Int (WNT) proteins and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), and an anterior telencephalic source of fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). Expanding the FGF8 domain suppressed Wnt2b, Wnt3a and Wnt5a expression in the hem. Next to the hem, the hippocampus was shrunken, consistent with its dependence for growth on a hem-derived WNT signal. Maintenance of hem WNT signaling and hippocampal development thus require a constraint on the FGF8 source, which is likely to be supplied by BMP activity. When endogenous BMP signaling is inhibited by noggin, robust Fgf8 expression appears ectopically in the cortical primordium. Abnormal signaling centers were further investigated in mice lacking the transcription factor EMX2, in which FGF8 activity is increased, WNT expression reduced, and the hippocampus defective. Suggesting that these defects are causally related, sequestering FGF8 in Emx2 homozygous mutants substantially recovered WNT expression in the hem and partially rescued hippocampal development. Because noggin can induce Fgf8 expression, we examined noggin and BMP signaling in the Emx2 mutant. As the telencephalic vesicle closed, Nog expression was expanded and BMP activity reduced, potentially leading to FGF8 upregulation. Our findings point to a cross-regulation of BMP, FGF, and WNT signaling in the early telencephalon, integrated by EMX2, and required for normal cortical development.

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