• CTGF/CCN2: The Marionettist of Mammalian Palatogenesis

      Popoff, Steven N.; Popoff, Steven N.; Barbe, Mary F.; Rizzo, Victor; Soprano, Dianne R.; Owen, Thomas A. (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)
      The mammalian palate develops early in embryogenesis by way of a carefully orchestrated series of temporally and spatially regulated signaling events. Molecular signaling pathways that have been proven to be vital to the process of palatogenesis include TGF-βs, BMPs, FGFs, EGF, and Wnts. The absence of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) has been shown previously to cause failure of proper palatogenesis, i.e. cleft palate. However, the details about the phenotype of this model of cleft palate were scarce. Additionally, CCN2 is known to interact with TGF-βs, BMPs, FGFs, EGF, and Wnts, though information on how these pathways were impacted in the developing palate lacking CCN2 were also not available. In Chapters 2 and 3, through our use of gross specimen and histological examination combined with cell and organ culture, we produced the most detailed characterization of the CCN2 knockout (KO) model of cleft palate with identification of negatively affected signaling pathways that lead to the clefting phenotype. Collection and examination of gross and histological sections revealed at 100% penetrance of cleft palate in which development is impaired around the phase of palatal shelf elevation. Organ culture also revealed that when artificially apposed, the CCN2 KO model system also suffers from a fusion deficit. Finally, utilizing cells isolated from the developing palates, we found a reduction in proliferation, adhesion, and spreading with an enhanced migratory ability. Addition of recombinant CCN2 was able to rescue cell spreading but not proliferation. CCN2 as an immobilized substrate did not rescue adhesive ability. Decreased adhesion and spreading in the KO cells are attributed to the inability of the KO cells to activate Rac1 and RhoA. Examination of gene expression differences by mRNA-sequencing and qRT-PCR revealed numerous gene expression alterations between the wild type (WT) and the KO palates, most notably FGF4 and EGFR. Addition of FGF4 or EGF to cell culture was unable to promote increased proliferation in the KO cells while producing a response in the WT cells. Examination of downstream signaling revealed highly amplified and prolonged ERK1/2 signaling in the FGF4 treated palate cells indicating that FGF signaling is significantly altered in the absence of CCN2. Treatment of the cells with EGF produced a response proportional to EGFR expression differences indicating that EGFR signaling is not impacted beyond the receptor protein levels. The link between EGFR protein levels and FGF mediated ERK1/2 activation is a protein called Spry2. We found greatly reduced Spry2 mRNA levels in the KO palates and upon FGF4 stimulation at 24 hours of exposure indicating that in the absence of CCN2, proper inhibition of FGF signaling and EGFR degradation is negatively altered. Collectively, the data demonstrate that CCN2 is vital to palatogenesis by impacting proliferation, shelf elevation, and shelf fusion through increased FGF signaling and reduced EGFR signaling resulting partially from reduced Spry2 activity.