Neural guidance gene regulates liver development

Apr 06, 2011

Scientists of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch (Germany) have demonstrated for the first time that a gene regulating neuronal cell migration during embryogenesis also plays a role in the development of the liver.

Using zebrafish as a model organism, Dr. Christian Klein and Professor Ferdinand le Noble showed that the gene navigator-3 (abbreviated nav3a) regulates liver organogenesis. If nav3a is missing, the liver cannot develop (Development 2011, doi:10.1242/dev.056861). "Moreover, first evidence indicates," Dr. Klein said, "that the expression of this gene is dysregulated during the pathogenesis of liver diseases in humans."

Scientists have known for some time that in the early phase of embryogenesis, neural guidance genes also play a role in the development of the vascular system. This is the focus of the research group "Angiogenesis and Cardiovascular Pathology" led by Professor le Noble. Dr. Klein, a member of this research group, discovered during his study of zebrafish that the navigator gene nav3a is also crucial for liver organogenesis.

In the zebrafish embryo, the navigator gene is active in the precursor cells of the liver. If it is missing, the liver cannot develop. The navigator gene, as its name implies, guides the cells in their migration. In a further step the researchers showed that nav3a optimizes cytoskeletal modulation in the cells, precisely orchestrating the migration of the to their determined destination, at which they subsequently form the liver. The production of the navigator gene is initiated by the signaling molecule wnt2bb, which belongs to a gene family that has key functions in organogenesis.

First evidence that dysregulated expression of nav3a is involved in liver diseases

The study of developmental processes in zebrafish embryos is also important for research into human diseases. According to Dr. Klein there are first indications "that dysregulated expression of nav3a is involved in the pathogenesis of liver cancer and cirrhosis in humans. Nav3a could thus be an important therapeutic target."

Explore further: Researchers identify unexpected functions in the determination of height for a gene expressed in sperm

More information: Neuron navigator 3a regulates liver organogenesis during zebrafish embryogenesis, dev.biologists.org/content/early/2011/04/06/dev.056861.full.pdf+html

Related Stories

Toxic bile damages the liver

Oct 24, 2008

Researchers at the Heidelberg University Hospital have discovered a new genetic disease that can lead to severe liver damage. Because a protective component of the bile is missing, the liver cells are exposed to the toxic ...

'At-TRIB(1)-uting' a gene a new function in the liver

Nov 15, 2010

Specific, relatively uncommon variations at a region of human chromosome 8 have recently been linked to fat (lipid) levels in the blood that decrease an individual's risk of atherosclerosis (a disease of the major arterial ...

Recommended for you

How sleep helps us learn and memorize

6 hours ago

Sleep is important for long lasting memories, particularly during this exam season. Research publishing in PLOS Computational Biology suggests that sleeping triggers the synapses in our brain to both streng ...

Hacking the nervous system

14 hours ago

When Maria Vrind, a former gymnast from Volendam in the Netherlands, found that the only way she could put her socks on in the morning was to lie on her back with her feet in the air, she had to accept that ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.