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Dev Biol. 2011 Jun 15;354(2):267-79. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.04.003. Epub 2011 Apr 16.

HuR controls lung branching morphogenesis and mesenchymal FGF networks.

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Institute of Immunology, Biomedical Sciences Research Center "Alexander Fleming", 16672 Vari, Greece.


Lung development is controlled by regulatory networks governing mesenchymal-epithelial interactions. Transcription factors and signaling molecules are known to participate in this process, yet little is known about the post-transcriptional regulation of these networks. Here we demonstrate that the RNA-binding protein (RBP) HuR is an essential regulator of mesenchymal responses during lung branching. Its epiblast-induced deletion blocked the morphogenesis of distal bronchial branches at the initiation of the pseudoglandular stage. The phenotype originated from defective mesenchymal responses since the conditional restriction of HuR deletion in epithelial progenitors did not affect distal branching or the completion of lung maturation. The loss of HuR resulted in the reduction of the key inducer of bud outgrowth and endodermal branching, FGF10 and one of its putative transcriptional regulators, Tbx4. Furthermore, exogenous FGF10 could rescue the branching defect of affected lung buds. HuR was found to bind and control the Fgf10 and Tbx4 mRNAs; as a result its deletion abolished their inducible post-transcriptional regulation by the mesenchymal regulator FGF9. Our data reveals HuR as the first RBP identified to play a dominant role in lung development and as a key post-transcriptional regulator of networks guiding tissue remodeling during branching morphogenesis.

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