A recent publication by members of CMRI's Embryology Research Unit and Synapse Proteomics Group was featured in eLife Digest. Here's what the publisher had to say:
Development with a TWIST
TWIST1 and the proteins it interacts with help to commit neural crest cells to form cartilage and bone in the face rather than becoming nerves.
Shaping the head and face during development relies on a complex ballet of molecular signals that orchestrates the movement and specialization of various groups of cells. In animals with a backbone, for example, neural crest cells (NCCs for short) can march long distances from the developing spine to become some of the tissues that form the skull and cartilage but also the pigment cells and nervous system.
NCCs mature into specific cell types thanks to a complex array of factors which trigger a precise sequence of binary fate decisions at the right time and place. Amongst these factors, the protein TWIST1 can set up a cascade of genetic events that control how NCCs will ultimately form tissues in the head. To do so, the TWIST1 protein interacts with many other molecular actors, many of which are still unknown.
To find some of these partners, Fan et al. studied TWIST1 in the NCCs of mice and cells grown in the lab. The experiments showed that TWIST1 interacted with CHD7, CHD8 and WHSC1, three proteins that help to switch genes on and off, and which contribute to NCCs moving across the head during development. Further work by Fan et al. then revealed that together, these molecular actors are critical for NCCs to form cells that will form facial bones and cartilage, as opposed to becoming neurons. This result helps to show that there is a trade-off between NCCs forming the face or being part of the nervous system.
One in three babies born with a birth defect shows anomalies of the head and face: understanding the exact mechanisms by which NCCs contribute to these structures may help to better predict risks for parents, or to develop new approaches for treatment.
Congratulations to Xiaochen Fan, V Pragathi Masamsetti, Jane QJ Sun, Kasper Engholm-Keller, Pierre Osteil, Joshua Studdert, Mark E Graham, Nicolas Fossat, and Patrick PL Tam, whose article entitled 'TWIST1 and chromatin regulatory proteins interact to guide neural crest cell differentiation' was published on 17 March. Read Full Article.