Ventral body wall closure (VBW) defects are amongst the most common human congenital anomalies. They represent a wide and heterogeneous group of phenotypic defects that can present in isolation or as a component in a larger syndromic anomaly. In addition, the incidence of associated anomalies is high and reaches 75% of fetuses in some types of VBW closure defects. Nevertheless, the embryonic origin and the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms between ventral closure defects and their associated congenital anomalies remain poorly characterised. This is in part due to the poor understanding of the physiological mechanisms that regulate the development of ventral organs and the lack of representative transgenic animal models allowing detailed in vivo analysis of defect formation. Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-ÃÂ²) signalling is essential for VBW closure and vascular and cardiac development. Yet, its mechanism of action and the responding cell(s) in the body wall remain largely unknown. In addition, in various cells TGF-B can induce the expression of Tagln, encoding for a cytoskeleton associated protein that enhances cell migration. No function has been ascribed to TAGLN in body wall development. I define here a role of TGF-B during a critical time window in embryonic development to fashion the ventral body wall, anterior diaphragm and parts of the circulatory system. I identify a population of TAGLN+ myofibroblasts that respond to a temporally regulated TGF-B signalling originating from the epithelium of the primary body wall. Deletion of TGF-B receptor in TAGLN+ cells leads to failure of ventral body wall closure, anterior diaphragmatic hernia, cardiac and outflow tract anomaly. Nevertheless, the descending aorta and the large aortic branches are spared. By using advanced transgenic methodology, I generated novel transgenic mouse lines that enabled me to fate map the cells that initiate the formation of important mesenchymal tissues. These studies revealed that the origin of aortic vascular smooth muscle cells can be traced back to a group of progenitor cells that reside in the wall of the dorsal aorta before the VBW closure. My studies provide intriguing evidence for spatially restricted role for TGF-B signalling in ascending but not descending aorta morphogenesis. I used a variety of techniques to characterise, analyse and quantify important mechanisms during mesenchymal and vascular development, their response to injury and repair. This thesis has been written in an alternative format, comprising the different areas which have been investigated. Collectively, the results presented here provide new insights into the role of migratory and mechanically stabilising cells in the development and maintenance of critical structures in the body and their common role in the development of concurrent congenital anomalies. A detailed understanding of the molecular signalling pathways and cells that drive VBW closure raises the hope that the related birth defects can in the future be treated by precise gene and cell therapies.
|Date of Award||1 Aug 2018|
- The University of Manchester
|Supervisor||Jason Wong (Supervisor) & Giulio Cossu (Supervisor)|
- Midline defects