UBC Faculty Research and Publications

TGF-β Signaling and the Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition during Palatal Fusion Nakajima, Akira; F. Shuler, Charles; Gulka, Alexander O. D.; Hanai, Jun-ichi


Signaling by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β plays an important role in development, including in palatogenesis. The dynamic morphological process of palatal fusion occurs to achieve separation of the nasal and oral cavities. Critically and specifically important in palatal fusion are the medial edge epithelial (MEE) cells, which are initially present at the palatal midline seam and over the course of the palate fusion process are lost from the seam, due to cell migration, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and/or programed cell death. In order to define the role of TGF-β signaling during this process, several approaches have been utilized, including a small interfering RNA (siRNA) strategy targeting TGF-β receptors in an organ culture context, the use of genetically engineered mice, such as Wnt1-cre/R26R double transgenic mice, and a cell fate tracing through utilization of cell lineage markers. These approaches have permitted investigators to distinguish some specific traits of well-defined cell populations throughout the palatogenic events. In this paper, we summarize the current understanding on the role of TGF-β signaling, and specifically its association with MEE cell fate during palatal fusion. TGF-β is highly regulated both temporally and spatially, with TGF-β3 and Smad2 being the preferentially expressed signaling molecules in the critical cells of the fusion processes. Interestingly, the accessory receptor, TGF-β type 3 receptor, is also critical for palatal fusion, with evidence for its significance provided by Cre-lox systems and siRNA approaches. This suggests the high demand of ligand for this fine-tuned signaling process. We discuss the new insights in the fate of MEE cells in the midline epithelial seam (MES) during the palate fusion process, with a particular focus on the role of TGF-β signaling.

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