Developmental biology

AVE protein expression and visceral endoderm cell behavior during anterior-posterior axis formation in mouse embryos: Asymmetry in OTX2 and DKK1 expression.

PMID 25910836


The initial landmark of anterior-posterior (A-P) axis formation in mouse embryos is the distal visceral endoderm, DVE, which expresses a series of anterior genes at embryonic day 5.5 (E5.5). Subsequently, DVE cells move to the future anterior region, generating anterior visceral endoderm (AVE). Questions remain regarding how the DVE is formed and how the direction of the movement is determined. This study compares the detailed expression patterns of OTX2, HHEX, CER1, LEFTY1 and DKK1 by immunohistology and live imaging at E4.5-E6.5. At E6.5, the AVE is subdivided into four domains: most anterior (OTX2, HHEX, CER1-low/DKK1-high), anterior (OTX2, HHEX, CER1-high/DKK1-low), main (OTX2, HHEX, CER1, LEFTY1-high) and antero-lateral and posterior (OTX2, HHEX-low). The study demonstrates how this pattern is established. AVE protein expression in the DVE occurs de novo at E5.25-E5.5. Neither HHEX, LEFTY1 nor CER1 expression is asymmetric. In contrast, OTX2 expression is tilted on the future posterior side with the DKK1 expression at its proximal domain; the DVE cells move in the opposite direction of the tilt.