PloS one

A functional genome-wide in vivo screen identifies new regulators of signalling pathways during early Xenopus embryogenesis.

PMID 24244509


Embryonic development requires exquisite regulation of several essential processes, such as patterning of tissues and organs, cell fate decisions, and morphogenesis. Intriguingly, these diverse processes are controlled by only a handful of signalling pathways, and mis-regulation in one or more of these pathways may result in a variety of congenital defects and diseases. Consequently, investigating how these signalling pathways are regulated at the molecular level is essential to understanding the mechanisms underlying vertebrate embryogenesis, as well as developing treatments for human diseases. Here, we designed and performed a large-scale gain-of-function screen in Xenopus embryos aimed at identifying new regulators of MAPK/Erk, PI3K/Akt, BMP, and TGF-β/Nodal signalling pathways. Our gain-of-function screen is based on the identification of gene products that alter the phosphorylation state of key signalling molecules, which report the activation state of the pathways. In total, we have identified 20 new molecules that regulate the activity of one or more signalling pathways during early Xenopus development. This is the first time that such a functional screen has been performed, and the findings pave the way toward a more comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating the activity of important signalling pathways under normal and pathological conditions.