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PLoS Genet. 2013;9(4):e1003467. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003467. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

Tbx2 terminates shh/fgf signaling in the developing mouse limb bud by direct repression of gremlin1.

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Institute for Molecular Biology, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Hannover, Germany.


Vertebrate limb outgrowth is driven by a positive feedback loop that involves Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and Gremlin1 (Grem1) in the posterior limb bud mesenchyme and Fibroblast growth factors (Fgfs) in the overlying epithelium. Proper spatio-temporal control of these signaling activities is required to avoid limb malformations such as polydactyly. Here we show that, in Tbx2-deficient hindlimbs, Shh/Fgf4 signaling is prolonged, resulting in increased limb bud size and duplication of digit 4. In turn, limb-specific Tbx2 overexpression leads to premature termination of this signaling loop with smaller limbs and reduced digit number as phenotypic manifestation. We show that Tbx2 directly represses Grem1 in distal regions of the posterior limb mesenchyme allowing Bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) signaling to abrogate Fgf4/9/17 expression in the overlying epithelium. Since Tbx2 itself is a target of Bmp signaling, our data identify a growth-inhibiting positive feedback loop (Bmp/Tbx2/Grem1). We propose that proliferative expansion of Tbx2-expressing cells mediates self-termination of limb bud outgrowth due to their refractoriness to Grem1 induction.

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