Mustn1 is essential for craniofacial chondrogenesis during Xenopus development.
Gersch RP., Kirmizitas A., Sobkow L., Sorrentino G., Thomsen GH., Hadjiargyrou M.
Mustn1 is a vertebrate-specific protein that, in vitro, was showed to be essential for prechondrocyte function and thus it has the potential to regulate chondrogenesis during embryonic development. We use Xenopus laevis as a model to examine Mustn1 involvement in chondrogenesis. Previous work suggests that Mustn1 is necessary but not sufficient for chondrogenic proliferation and differentiation, as well as myogenic differentiation in vitro. Mustn1 was quantified and localized in developing Xenopus embryos using RT-PCR and whole mount in situ hybridization. Xenopus embryos were injected with either control morpholinos (Co-MO) or one designed against Mustn1 (Mustn1-MO) at the four cell stage. Embryos were scored for morphological defects and Sox9 was visualized via in situ hybridization. Finally, Mustn1-MO-injected embryos were co-injected with Mustn1-MO resistant mRNA to confirm the specificity of the observed phenotype. Mustn1 is expressed from the mid-neurula stage to the swimming tadpole stages, predominantly in anterior structures including the pharyngeal arches and associated craniofacial tissues, and the developing somites. Targeted knockdown of Mustn1 in craniofacial and dorsal axial tissues resulted in phenotypes characterized by small or absent eye(s), a shortened body axis, and tail kinks. Further, Mustn1 knockdown reduced cranial Sox9 mRNA expression and resulted in the loss of differentiated cartilaginous head structures (e.g. ceratohyal and pharyngeal arches). Reintroduction of MO-resistant Mustn1 mRNA rescued these effects. We conclude that Mustn1 is necessary for normal craniofacial cartilage development in vivo, although the exact molecular mechanism remains unknown.