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Dev Biol. 2004 Dec 15;276(2):313-29.

Control of retinoic acid synthesis and FGF expression in the nasal pit is required to pattern the craniofacial skeleton.

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Department of Oral Health Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia, 2199 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3.


Endogenous retinoids are important for patterning many aspects of the embryo including the branchial arches and frontonasal region of the embryonic face. The nasal placodes express retinaldehyde dehydrogenase-3 (RALDH3) and thus retinoids from the placode are a potential patterning influence on the developing face. We have carried out experiments that have used Citral, a RALDH antagonist, to address the function of retinoid signaling from the nasal pit in a whole embryo model. When Citral-soaked beads were implanted into the nasal pit of stage 20 chicken embryos, the result was a specific loss of derivatives from the lateral nasal prominences. Providing exogenous retinoic acid residue development of the beak demonstrating that most Citral-induced defects were produced by the specific blocking of RA synthesis. The mechanism of Citral effects was a specific increase in programmed cell death on the lateral (lateral nasal prominence) but not the medial side (frontonasal mass) of the nasal pit. Gene expression studies were focused on the Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) pathway, which has a well-established role in programmed cell death. Unexpectedly, blocking RA synthesis decreased rather than increased Msx1, Msx2, and Bmp4 expression. We also examined cell survival genes, the most relevant of which was Fgf8, which is expressed around the nasal pit and in the frontonasal mass. We found that Fgf8 was not initially expressed along the lateral side of the nasal pit at the start of our experiments, whereas it was expressed on the medial side. Citral prevented upregulation of Fgf8 along the lateral edge and this may have contributed to the specific increase in programmed cell death in the lateral nasal prominence. Consistent with this idea, exogenous FGF8 was able to prevent cell death, rescue most of the morphological defects and was able to prevent a decrease in retinoic acid receptorbeta (Rarbeta) expression caused by Citral. Together, our results demonstrate that endogenous retinoids act upstream of FGF8 and the balance of these two factors is critical for regulating programmed cell death and morphogenesis in the face. In addition, our data suggest a novel role for endogenous retinoids from the nasal pit in controlling the precise downregulation of FGF in the center of the frontonasal mass observed during normal vertebrate development.

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