Cell signaling guides morphogenesis: roles for Eph-Ephrin signaling in sea urchin morphogenesis.

Date

2015-08-13

Authors

Krupke, Oliver A.

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Abstract

The role that signaling molecules play during morphogenesis and their interactions is a field of intense study and the sea urchin represents a facile system to study these aspects of development in the early embryo. In many instances, the S. purpuratus genome contains relatively simple receptor-ligand signaling systems compared to vertebrate counterparts and this provides interesting opportunities to study their diversity of function during the morphogenetic events that shape the embryo. The Eph-Ephrin signaling components are an excellent example of this and they are represented by dozens of members in the vertebrate system with developmental functions that include axon guidance, cell migration and tissue segregation. In contrast, the sea urchin genome contains a single Eph receptor and a single Ephrin ligand and by interacting with different effectors of signal transduction, this simple, bipartite system can fulfill a variety of functional roles during morphogenesis. Studying the function of Eph-Ephrin signaling in the sea urchin embryo, I have revealed two distinct morphogenetic movements in which Eph-Ephrin signaling is necessary; apical constriction of ciliary band cells and pigment cell migration. In both examples, a functionally relevant Ephrin gradient establishes spatial information in the developing tissues, producing a reaction from cells expressing the Eph receptor. In the case of pigment cells, the distribution of migrating cells is affected and in the case of ciliary band cells, apical constriction occurs. The different outcomes of Eph-Ephrin signaling in these two tissues exemplifies signaling components communicating spatial information and initiating morphogenetic programs with outcomes dependent on cellular context. Furthermore, I have identified downstream components of Eph-Ephrin signaling that have necessary functions in both models, illustrating how different cellular programs can be induced by the same signaling iii iv components. My research contributes to understanding fundamental aspects of how complex 3 dimensional tissues arise from the genes and regulatory elements encoded in metazoan genomes.

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Keywords

biochyemistry, cell signaling, development, sea urchin, Eph, Ephrin, Semaphorin, Plexin, Rap1A, focal adhesion kinase, polarity, ciliary band, pigment cells, mesenchyme

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