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Dev Biol. 2007 Aug 15;308(2):392-406. Epub 2007 Jun 2.

Canonical Wnt signaling is required for ophthalmic trigeminal placode cell fate determination and maintenance.

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Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84663, USA.


Cranial placodes are ectodermal regions that contribute extensively to the vertebrate peripheral sensory nervous system. The development of the ophthalmic trigeminal (opV) placode, which gives rise only to sensory neurons of the ophthalmic lobe of the trigeminal ganglion, is a useful model of sensory neuron development. While key differentiation processes have been characterized at the tissue and cellular levels, the signaling pathways governing opV placode development have not. Here we tested in chick whether the canonical Wnt signaling pathway regulates opV placode development. By introducing a Wnt reporter into embryonic chick head ectoderm, we show that the canonical pathway is active in Pax3+ opV placode cells as, or shortly after, they are induced to express Pax3. Blocking the canonical Wnt pathway resulted in the failure of targeted cells to adopt or maintain an opV fate, as assayed by the expression of various markers including Pax3, FGFR4, Eya2, and the neuronal differentiation markers Islet1, neurofilament, and NeuN, although, surprisingly, it led to upregulation of Neurogenin2, both in the opV placode and elsewhere in the ectoderm. Activating the canonical Wnt signaling pathway, however, was not sufficient to induce Pax3, the earliest specific marker of the opV placode. We conclude that canonical Wnt signaling is necessary for normal opV placode development, and propose that other molecular cues are required in addition to Wnt signaling to promote cells toward an opV placode fate.

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