Intracellular pH controls WNT downstream of glycolysis in amniote embryos.
Formation of the body of vertebrate embryos proceeds sequentially by posterior addition of tissues from the tail bud. Cells of the tail bud and the posterior presomitic mesoderm, which control posterior elongation1
, exhibit a high level of aerobic glycolysis that is reminiscent of the metabolic status of cancer cells experiencing the Warburg effect2,3
. Glycolytic activity downstream of fibroblast growth factor controls WNT signalling in the tail bud3
. In the neuromesodermal precursors of the tail bud4
, WNT signalling promotes the mesodermal fate that is required for sustained axial elongation, at the expense of the neural fate3,5
. How glycolysis regulates WNT signalling in the tail bud is currently unknown. Here we used chicken embryos and human tail bud-like cells differentiated in vitro from induced pluripotent stem cells to show that these cells exhibit an inverted pH gradient, with the extracellular pH lower than the intracellular pH, as observed in cancer cells6
. Our data suggest that glycolysis increases extrusion of lactate coupled to protons via the monocarboxylate symporters. This contributes to elevating the intracellular pH in these cells, which creates a favourable chemical environment for non-enzymatic β-catenin acetylation downstream of WNT signalling. As acetylated β-catenin promotes mesodermal rather than neural fate7
, this ultimately leads to activation of mesodermal transcriptional WNT targets and specification of the paraxial mesoderm in tail bud precursors. Our work supports the notion that some tumour cells reactivate a developmental metabolic programme.
Oginuma, M; Harima, Y; Tarazona, OA; Diaz-Cuadros, M; Michaut, A; Ishitani, T; Xiong, F; Pourquié, O
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