Local sources of retinoic acid coincide with retinoid-mediated transgene activity during embryonic development.
We have assessed whether retinoic acid (RA) comes from local sources or is available widely to activate gene expression in embryos. We used an RA-responsive indicator cell line, L-C2A5, to localize RA sources. In these cells, an RA-sensitive promoter/lacZ reporter construct used previously by us to produce indicator transgenic mice is induced globally by RA in medium or locally by RA released at physiological concentrations (1 nM) from AG-1X2 resin beads. Furthermore, the cells are differentially responsive to the 9-cis and all-trans isomers of RA at low concentrations. Indicator transgenic mice with the same promoter/reporter construct were used to identify regions of RA-mediated gene activation. There are distinct domains of lacZ expression in the cervical and lumbar spinal cords of embryonic indicator mice. This pattern might reflect localized RA sources or restricted spatial and temporal expression of RA receptors, binding proteins, or other factors. To resolve this issue we compared the pattern of transgene activation in indicator cell monolayers cocultured with normal embryonic spinal cords with that in transgenic spinal cords. The explants induced reporter gene expression in L-C2A5 monolayers in a pattern identical to that in transgenic mice: alar regions of the cervical and lumbar cord were positive whereas those in the thoracic and sacral regions were not. We conclude that restricted sources of RA in the developing spinal cord mediate the local activation of RA-inducible genes. Thus, region-specific gene activation in embryos can be mediated by precisely localized sources of inductive molecules like RA.
Colbert, MC; Linney, E; LaMantia, AS
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