The roles of Pbx and Meis TALE-class homeodomain transcription factors in vertebrate neural patterning

  • Author / Creator
    Erickson, Timothy
  • One of the major goals of developmental biology is to understand how specialized groups of cells arise from an initially unspecified cell population. The vertebrate hindbrain is transiently segmented along its anterior-posterior axis into lineage-restricted compartments called rhombomeres, making it an excellent model in which to study the genetic mechanisms of axial patterning. Hox homeodomain transcription factors (TF), in close partnership with the Pbx and Meis families of TALE-class homeodomain proteins, impart unique molecular identities to the hindbrain rhombomeres, thereby specifying functionally specialized neurons within each segment. The broad goals of this thesis are to clarify the roles of Meis1 and Tshz3b TFs in Hox-dependent hindbrain patterning, and to examine the Hox-independent roles of Pbx and Meis proteins in axial patterning of the visual system. While it is clear that Hox-Pbx-Meis complexes regulate hindbrain segmentation, the contributions of individual Meis proteins are not well understood. I have shown that Meis1-depleted embryos exhibit neuronal patterning defects, even though the hindbrain retains its segmental organization. This suggests that Meis1 is making important contributions to neuronal development downstream of rhombomeric specification. A zinc-finger TF called Teashirt (Tsh) cooperates with Hox-Pbx-Meis complexes to establish segmental identity in Drosophila, but this role not been tested in vertebrates. I found that overexpression of tshz3b produces segmentation defects reminiscent of Hox-Pbx-Meis loss of function phenotype, likely by acting as a transcriptional repressor. Thus, Tshz3b may be a negative regulator of Hox- dependent hindbrain patterning. Like the hindbrain, visual system function requires that positional information be correctly specified in the retina and midbrain. I found that zebrafish Pbx and Engrailed homeodomain TFs are biochemical DNA binding partners, and that this interaction is required to maintain the midbrain as a lineage- restricted compartment. Additionally, I show that Meis1 specifies positional information in both the retina and midbrain, thereby helping to organize the axonal connections between the eye and brain. Taken together, this thesis clarifies our understanding of Hox-dependent hindbrain patterning, and makes the claim that Pbx and Meis perform a general axial patterning function in anterior neural tissues such as the hindbrain, midbrain and retina.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Allison, Ted (Biological Sciences)
    • Schuurmans, Carol (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Calgary)
    • Lehmann, Ordan (Ophthalmology)
    • Godbout, Roseline (Oncology)