Essential roles of retinoic acid signaling in interdigital apoptosis and control of BMP-7 expression in mouse autopods

Valérie Dupé, Norbert B. Ghyselinck, Vilmos Thomazy, László Nagy, Peter J.A. Davies, Pierre Chambon, Manuel Mark

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94 Scopus citations


We previously reported that mice lacking the RARγ gene and one or both alleles of the RARβ gene (i.e., RARβ(+/-)/RARγ(-/-) and RARβ(-/-)/RARγ(- /-) mutants) display a severe and fully penetrant interdigital webbing (soft tissue syndactyly), caused by the persistence of the fetal interdigital mesenchyme (Ghyselinck et al., 1997, Int. J. Dev. Biol. 41, 49-5-447). In the present study, these compound mutants were used to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in retinoic acid (RA)-dependent formation of the interdigital necrotic zones (INZs). The mutant INZs show a marked decrease in the number of apoptotic cells accompanied by an increase of cell proliferation. This marked decrease was not paralleled by a reduction of the number of macrophages, indicating that the chemotactic cues which normally attract these cells into the INZs were not affected. The expression of a number of genes known to be involved in the establishment of the INZs, the patterning of the autopod, and/or the initiation of apoptosis was also unaffected. These genes included BMP-2, BMP-4, Msx-1, Msx-2, 5' members of Hox complexes, Bcl2, Bax, and p53. In contrast, the mutant INZs displayed a specific, graded, down-regulation of tissue transglutaminase (tTG) promoter activity and of stromelysin-3 expression upon the removal of one or both alleles of the RARβ gene from the RARγ null genetic background. As retinoic acid response elements are present in the promoter regions of both tTG and stromelysin-3 genes, we propose that RA might increase the amount of cell death in the INZs through a direct modulation of tTG expression and that it also contributes to the process of tissue remodeling, which accompanies cell death, through an up-regulation of stromelysin-3 expression in the INZs. Approximately 10% of the RARβ(-/-)/RARγ(-/-) mutants displayed a supernumerary preaxial digit on hindfeet, which is also a feature of the BMP- 7 null phenotype (Dudley et al., 1995, Genes Dev. 9, 2795-2807; Luo et al., 1995, Genes Der. 9, 2808-2820). BMP-7 was globally down-regulated at an early stage in the autopods of these RAR double null mutants, prior to the appearance of the digital rays. Therefore, RA may exert some of its effects on anteroposterior autopod patterning through controlling BMP-7 expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-43
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Limb development
  • Retinoic acid receptors
  • Stromelysin-3, BMP-7
  • Tissue transglutaminase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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