Cleft Palate and Aglossia Result From Perturbations in Wnt and Hedgehog Signaling

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Objective:The objective of this study was to explore the molecular basis for cleft secondary palate and arrested tongue development caused by the loss of the intraflagellar transport protein,Kif3a.Design:Kif3amutant embryos and their littermate controls were analyzed for defects in facial development at multiple stages of embryonic development. Histology was employed to understand the effects ofKif3adeletion on palate and tongue development. Various transgenic reporter strains were used to understand how deletion ofKif3aaffected Hedgehog and Wnt signaling. Immunostaining for structural elements of the tongue and for components of the Wnt pathway were performed. BrdU activity analyses were carried out to examine how the loss ofKif3aaffected cell proliferation and led to palate and tongue malformations.Results:Kif3adeletion causes cranial neural crest cells to become unresponsive to Hedgehog signals and hyper-responsive to Wnt signals. This aberrant molecular signaling causes abnormally high cell proliferation, but paradoxically outgrowths of the tongue and the palatal processes are reduced. The basis for this enigmatic effect can be traced back to a disruption in epithelial/mesenchymal signaling that governs facial development.Conclusion:The primary cilium is a cell surface organelle that integrates Hh and Wnt signaling, and disruptions in the function of the primary cilium cause one of the most common— of the rarest—craniofacial birth defects observed in humans. The shared molecular basis for these dysmorphologies is an abnormally high Wnt signal simultaneous with an abnormally low Hedgehog signal. These pathways are integrated in the primary cilium.

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