Paris, 18 February 2010
Vertebral symmetry appears early in the course of embryonic development, at the time when somites are formed. Somites are cubic shaped structures from which the vertebrae and the muscles, in particular, are derived. Under the influence of an internal clock, pairs of somites develop, in a periodic manner, starting from the internal cellular layers of the embryo. Retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, appears to play a significant role in controlling the symmetry of the somites. Moreover, it is known that semitogenesis becomes desynchronised in mice which are deficient in retinoic acid.
In a study performed on mouse embryos, the researchers investigated the Rere protein, also known as atrophin 2. They showed that this molecule participates in the activation of the signalling pathway for retinoic acid by forming a complex with two other proteins, Nr2f2 and p300, and a retinoic acid receptor. Mice mutated for the Rere gene show the same retarded somite formation as mice which are deficient in retinoic acid.
Their work also showed that the proteins, Nr2f2 and Rere, control the asymmetry of the signalling pathway for retinoic acid. This asymmetry is required to correct interference with the signals which determine the lateralisation of organs. Hence, this study improves our understanding of how the general symmetry of the body can be reconciled with the lateralisation of some organs.
In man, the anomalies in symmetric development of the somites could be responsible for vertebral symmetry disorders such as scoliosis. A defect in the regulation of functions performed by RERE or Nr2f2 on the retinoic acid signalling pathway may be implicated in the occurrence of these frequent, and sometimes acute, diseases.
“Rere controls retinoic acid signalling and somite bilateral symmetry”
Gonçalo C. Vilhais-Neto (1,*), Mitsuji Mareuhashi (1,2,*),Karen T. Smith (1), Mireille Vasseur-Cognet (3), Andrew S.Peterson (4), Jerry L. Workman1, O. Pourquié (1,2,5,*)
1 - Stowers Institute for Medical Research
2 - Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Kansas City, Missouri 64110, USA
3 - Department of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Cancer, Institut Cochin, Université Paris Descartes, CNRS (UMR 8104), Inserm U567
4 - Genentech, South San Francisco, California 94080, USA.
5 - University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas 66160, USA.
* - current address: Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS (UMR 7104), Inserm U964, Université de Strasbourg, Illkirch
Nature, February 2010
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