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Differential requirement of SUFU in tissue development discovered in a hypomorphic mouse model

Hoelzl, Maria A., Heby-Henricson, Karin, Gerling, Marco, Dias, José M., Kuiper, Raoul V., Trünkle, Cornelius, Bergström, Åsa, Ericson, Johan, Toftgård, Rune, Teglund, Stephan
Developmental biology 2017 v.429 no.1 pp. 132-146
animal models, messenger RNA, mice, mortality, organogenesis, skeleton, tissues, transactivators, transcription (genetics)
Suppressor of Fused (SUFU) is an essential negative regulator of the Hedgehog (HH) pathway and involved in GLI transcription factor regulation. Due to early embryonic lethality of Sufu⁻/⁻ mice, investigations of SUFU's role later in development are limited to conditional, tissue-specific knockout models. In this study we developed a mouse model (Sufuᴱˣ⁴⁵⁶⁽ᶠˡ⁾/ᴱˣ⁴⁵⁶⁽ᶠˡ⁾) with hypomorphic features where embryos were viable up to E18.5, although with a spectrum of developmental defects of varying severity, including polydactyly, exencephaly and omphalocele. Development of certain tissues, like the skeleton, was more affected than that of others such as skin, which remained largely normal. Interestingly, no apparent changes in the dorso-ventral patterning of the neural tube at E9.0 could be seen. Thus, this model provides an opportunity to globally study SUFU's molecular function in organogenesis beyond E9.5. Molecularly, Sufuᴱˣ⁴⁵⁶⁽ᶠˡ⁾/ᴱˣ⁴⁵⁶⁽ᶠˡ⁾ embryos displayed aberrant mRNA splicing and drastically reduced levels of Sufu wild-type mRNA and SUFU protein in all tissues. As a consequence, at E9.5 the levels of all three different GLI proteins were reduced. Interestingly, despite the reduction of GLI3 protein levels, the critical ratio of the GLI3 full-length transcriptional activator versus GLI3 truncated repressor remained unchanged compared to wild-type embryos. This suggests that the limited amount of SUFU protein present is sufficient for GLI processing but not for stabilization. Our data demonstrate that tissue development is differentially affected in response to the reduced SUFU levels, providing novel insight regarding the requirements of different levels of SUFU for proper organogenesis.