FGF signals are involved in the differentiation of notochord cells and mesenchyme cells of the ascidian Halocynthia roretzi
Differentiation of notochord cells and mesenchyme cells of the ascidian Halocynthia roretzi requires interactions with neighboring endodermal cells and previous experiments suggest that these interactions require fibroblast growth factor (FGF). In the present study, we examined the role of FGF in these interactions by disrupting signaling using the dominant negative form of the FGF receptor. An FGF receptor gene of H. roretzi (HrFGFR) is expressed both maternally and zygotically. The maternally
... lly. The maternally expressed transcript was ubiquitously distributed in fertilized eggs and in early embryos. Zygotic expression became evident by the neurula stage and transcripts were detected in epidermal cells of the posterior half of embryos. Synthetic mRNA for the dominant negative form of FGFR, in which the intracellular tyrosine kinase domain was deleted, was injected into fertilized eggs to interfere with the possible function of HRFGFR: Injected eggs cleaved and gastrulated the same as the control embryos. Analyses of the expression of differentiation markers in the experimental embryos indicated that the differentiation of epidermal cells, muscle cells and endodermal cells was not affected significantly. However, manipulated embryos showed downregulation of notochord-specific Brachyury expression and failure of notochord cell differentiation, resulting in the development of tailbud embryos with shorted tails. The expression of an actin gene that is normally expressed in mesenchyme cells was also suppressed. These results suggest that FGF signals are involved in differentiation of notochord cells and mesenchyme cells in Halocynthia embryos. Furthermore, the patterning of a neuron-specific tubulin gene expression was disturbed, suggesting that the formation of the nervous system was directly affected by disrupting FGF signals or indirectly affected due to the disruption of normal notochord formation.