DLX5, FGF8and thePin1isomerase control ΔNp63α protein stability during limb development: a regulatory loop at the basis of the SHFM and EEC congenital malformations

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Ectrodactyly, or Split-Hand/Foot Malformation (SHFM), is a congenital condition characterized by the loss of central rays of hands and feet. The p63 and theDLX5;DLX6transcription factors, expressed in the embryonic limb buds and ectoderm, are disease genes for these conditions. Mutations ofp63also cause the ectodermal dysplasia-ectrodactyly-cleft lip/palate (EEC) syndrome, comprising SHFM. Ectrodactyly is linked to defects of the apical ectodermal ridge (AER) of the developing limb buds. FGF8 is the key signaling molecule in this process, able to direct proximo-distal growth and patterning of the skeletal primordial of the limbs. In the limb buds of bothp63andDlx5;Dlx6murine models of SHFM, the AER is poorly stratified andFGF8expression is severely reduced. We show here that theFGF8locus is a downstream target of DLX5 and that FGF8 counteracts Pin1-ΔNp63α interaction.In vivo, lack ofPin1leads to accumulation of the p63 protein in the embryonic limbs and ectoderm. We show also that ΔNp63α protein stability is negatively regulated by the interaction with the prolyl-isomerase Pin1, via proteasome-mediated degradation; p63 mutant proteins associated with SHFM or EEC syndromes are resistant to Pin1 action. Thus, DLX5, p63, Pin1 and FGF8 participate to the same time- and location-restricted regulatory loop essential for AER stratification, hence for normal patterning and skeletal morphogenesis of the limb buds. These results shed new light on the molecular mechanisms at the basis of the SHFM and EEC limb malformations.

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