β-actin in neutral crest cell migration and brain development

01 January 2011 → 31 December 2013
Funding by bilateral agreement (private and foundations)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Biological and physiological psychology
    • Cognitive science and intelligent systems
    • Developmental psychology and ageing
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Neurosciences
    • Neurosciences
    • Neurosciences
neural crest cell migration
Project description

The mouse genome consists of six functional actin genes of which the expression patterns are temporally and spatially regulated during development and in the adult organism. Deletion of beta-actin in mouse is lethal during embryonic development, although there is compensatory expression of other actin isoforms. This suggests different isoform specific functions and, more in particular, an important function for beta-actin during early mammalian development. We here report a role for beta-actin during neural crest ontogeny. Although beta-actin null neural crest cells show expression of neural crest markers, less cells delaminate and their migration arrests shortly after. These phenotypes were associated with elevated apoptosis levels in neural crest cells, whereas proliferation levels were unchanged. Specifically the pre-migratory neural crest cells displayed higher levels of apoptosis, suggesting increased apoptosis in the neural tube accounts for the decreased amount of migrating neural crest cells seen in the beta-actin null embryos. These cells additionally displayed a lack of membrane bound N-cadherin and dramatic decrease in cadherin-11 expression which was more pronounced in the pre-migratory neural crest population, potentially indicating linkage between the cadherin-11 expression and apoptosis. By inhibiting ROCK ex vivo, the knockout neural crest cells regained migratory capacity and cadherin-11 expression was upregulated. We conclude that the presence of beta-actin is vital for survival, specifically of pre-migratory neural crest cells, their proper emigration from the neural tube and their subsequent migration. Furthermore, the absence of beta-actin affects cadherin-11 and N-cadherin function, which could partly be alleviated by ROCK inhibition, situating the Rho-ROCK signaling in a feedback loop with cadherin-11.