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Title: Investigating TGFβ signals in cell fate specification in the early mouse embryo
Author: Senft, Anna Dorothea
ISNI:       0000 0004 7234 1592
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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TGFβ signalling via Smad transcription factors is essential for axis patterning and subsequent cell fate specification during mammalian embryogenesis. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms have been difficult to characterise in vivo due to early embryonic lethality of mouse mutants and redundant functional activities. Here I show that combined deletion of closely related Smad2 and Smad3 in mouse embryonic stem cells impairs induction of lineage specific gene expression during differentiation, while extra-embryonic gene expression is up-regulated. Preliminary data suggest that the underlying mechanism of this differentiation defect reflects the inability of Smad2/3-/- cells to establish lineage priming. Collectively, these findings identify novel downstream target genes controlled by Smad2/3 and an absolute requirement for Smad2/3 during embryonic differentiation. TGFβ signalling via Smad1 and Smad4 is essential for induction of the transcription factor Blimp1 required for primordial germ cell specification. The direct upstream regulators of Blimp1 are unknown, but T-box factors have recently been suggested to play a role. In a second project, I performed tissue- specific ablation of the T-box transcription factor Eomes as well as components of the TGFβ signalling pathway in either the visceral endoderm or the epiblast to examine tissue-specific functions for Blimp1 induction. I show that Eomes and Smad2 functions in the visceral endoderm as well as Eomes function in the epiblast are dispensable for Blimp1 induction, but rather are required to restrict Blimp1 induction to posterior epiblast cells. In contrast, epiblast-specific Smad4 or Smad1 mutants fail to robustly induce Blimp1 in the epiblast. My preliminary analysis suggests that competence to induce primordial germ cell fate is dependent on the interplay of Smad2/Eomes functions in the visceral endoderm and Smad1/4 functions in the epiblast. Collectively, this thesis provides insight into the transition from pluripotency to cell fate specification in the mammalian embryo that is impossible to obtain from human embryos in vivo.
Supervisor: Robertson, Elizabeth ; Bikoff, Elizabeth Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mouse Embryology ; Chromosome and Developmental Biology ; Molecular Biology ; mouse embryo ; cell fate allocation ; extra-embryonic ; Smad2, Smad3 ; lineage priming ; Nodal signalling ; Bmp signalling ; embryonic stem cells ; TGFß signalling