Friday, January 18, 2008

Mini-review: toward understanding mechanisms of genetic neural tube defects in mice

Harris MJ, Juriloff DM. Mini-review: toward understanding mechanisms of genetic neural tube defects in mice. Teratology. 1999 Nov;60(5):292-305. Review.

We review the data from studies of mouse mutants that lend insight to the mechanisms that lead to neural tube defects (NTDs). Most of the 50 single-gene mutations that cause neural tube defects (NTDs) in mice also cause severe embryonic-lethal syndromes, in which exencephaly is a nonspecific feature. In a few mutants (e.g., Trp53, Macs, Mlp or Sp), other defects may be present, but affected fetuses can survive to birth. Multifactorial genetic causes, as are present in the curly tail stock (15-20% spina bifida), or the SELH/Bc strain (15-20% exencephaly), lead to nonsyndromic NTDs. The mutations indicate that "spina bifida occulta," a dorsal gap in the vertebral arches over an intact neural tube, is usually genetically and developmentally unrelated to exencephaly or "spina bifida" (aperta). Almost all exencephaly or spina bifida aperta of genetic origin is caused by failure of neural fold elevation. The developmental mechanisms in genetic NTDs are considered in terms of distinct rostro-caudal zones along the neural folds that likely differ in mechanism of elevation. Failure of elevation leads to: split face (zone A), exencephaly (zone B), rachischisis (all of zone D), or spina bifida (caudal zone D). The developmental mechanisms leading to these genetic NTDs are heterogeneous, even within one zone. At the tissue level, the mutants show that the mechanism of failure of elevation can involve, e.g., (1) slow growth of adjacent tethered tissue (curly tail), (2) defective forebrain mesenchyme (Cart1 or twist), (3) defective basal lamina in surface ectoderm (Lama5), (4) excessive breadth of floorplate and notochord (Lp), (5) abnormal neuroepithelium (Apob, Sp, Tcfap2a), (6) morphological deformation of neural folds (jmj), (7) abnormal neuroepithelial and neural crest cell gap-junction communication (Gja1), or (8) incomplete compensation for a defective step in the elevation sequence (SELH/Bc). At the biochemical level, mutants suggest involvement of: (1) faulty regulation of apoptosis (Trp53 or p300), (2) premature differentiation (Hes1), (3) disruption of actin function (Macs or Mlp), (4) abnormal telomerase complex (Terc), or (5) faulty pyrimidine synthesis (Sp). The NTD preventative effect of maternal dietary supplementation is also heterogeneous, as demonstrated by: (1) methionine (Axd), (2) folic acid or thymidine (Sp), or (3) inositol (curly tail). The heterogeneity of mechanism of mouse NTDs suggests that human NTDs, including the common nonsyndromic anencephaly or spina bifida, may also reflect a variety of genetically caused defects in developmental mechanisms normally responsible for elevation of the neural folds.

PMID: 10525207

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