Wnt8 Is a Novel Target of the Dorsal/Twist/Snail Network and an Inhibitor of Dorsal in the Gastrulating Drosophila Embryo: A Dissertation

Publication Date

December 2004

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology


Drosophila; Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental; Drosophila Proteins; Transcription Factors; Gastrula; Academic Dissertations; Dissertations, UMMS


The work in presented in this thesis identifies Drosophila Wnt8 as a novel zygotic target of the Dorsal/Twist/Snail network using a microarray analysis to identify differentially expressed genes in maternal dorsal mutant and gain-of-function Toll10b embryos as compared to wild type. In-situ hybridization with a Wnt8 antisense RNA probe revealed a fairly complex expression pattern in the early embryo. No maternal expression was observed and the first zygotic expression appeared at stage 4 at the poles. This was followed by patchy and relatively weak expression in the presumptive mesoderm with stronger expression in the mesectoderm and later the neuroectoderm. These expression required the Dorsal/Twist/Snail network with some input from Delta in the neuroectoderm. All embryonic Wnt8 expression ceased after late stage 10. Snail was found to repress Wnt8 in the presumptive mesoderm. The relevance of Wnt8 as a Snail target was tested by bypassing this repression in wild type embryos using a maternal Gal4 driver to drive UAS-Wnt8. This led to a loss of ventral furrow formation and a phenocopy of the snail mutant phenotype, thereby indicating that the repression of Wnt8 by Snail is important for gastrulation. Further investigation into the mechanism revealed a reduction in the expression of multiple target genes of Dorsal (including snail) in these Wnt8 overexpressing embryos. Ventral nuclear Dorsal protein was reduced as compared to wild type, suggesting that high levels of Wnt8 can antagonize Dorsal nuclear localization. Deficiency embryos lacking Wnt8 showed the opposite phenotype of expanded anterior and posterior snail RNA staining, as well as an expanded nuclear Dorsal signal in the posterior. This could be phenocopied using dsRNA against Wnt8, and was fully rescueable in the deficiency background using a Wnt8 genomic fragment. It has been reported that loss-of-function snail embryos lose the sharp lateral boundaries and high levels of snail expression more rapidly as compared to wild type. We hypothesize that this loss is due to derepressed Wnt8 antagonizing Dorsal and consequently its target, snail. In support of our hypothesis, double mutants of snail and the Wnt8 deficiency show a rescue of the snail pattern, though not a rescue of ventral furrow formation. Western blot analysis reveals a decrease in the levels of phosphorylation of Dorsal in Wnt8 overexpressing embryos as compared to wild type. Phosphorylation of Dorsal is required for its nuclear translocation. Hence, these data corroborate the observation of reduced nuclear Dorsal in embryos overexpressing Wnt8. Together, these data point to Wnt8 being an important target and a feedback inhibitor of the Dorsal/Twist/Snail pathway that achieves its effect by the inhibition of Dorsal.


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