Investigating the role of Wnt/Planar cell polarity (PCP) in Neuromesodermal Progenitors (NMPs)
Watson, Julia Alice
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Neuromesodermal progenitors (NMPs) are bipotent progenitors, located at the caudal end of the embryo and are essential for axis formation. These stem cell-like progenitors possess the ability to self-renew and differentiate to both mesodermal and neural lineages, such as skeletal muscle and spinal cord derivatives. These progenitors arise at E8.5 and are localised in the caudal lateral epiblast (CLE), a posterior region of the embryo near the primitive streak. Later in development, they reside in the tail bud until cessation of axial elongation at E13.5. Throughout these stages NMPs are characteristically marked by co-expression of T(Bra) (Brachyury) and Sox2. This characteristic is also present in in vitro NMPs, which can be derived from Epiblast Stem Cells (EpiSCs) through treatment with Wnt/β-catenin signalling agonists and Fgf2, which simulates their in vivo environment. Protein and mRNA profiling of NMPs and mutant phenotypes in vivo supports the hypothesis that a non-canonical Wnt pathway, the Wnt/Planar Cell Polarity pathway (PCP) could be involved in NMP fate decision and/or maintenance. This thesis focuses on understanding more about the role of PCP by aiming to identify the spatio-temporal profile of Wnt/PCP pathway components in NMP regions during axial elongation, as well as determining its role in NMP behaviour through manipulation of this pathway via in vivo and in vitro assays Employing in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry techniques, key Wnt/PCP components, including Pk1, Vangl2 and Ptk7, were confirmed to be present in in vivo and in vitro NMPs, thus, providing strong evidence that Wnt/PCP may be involved regulating NMP behaviour. Disruption of Wnt/PCP signalling through overexpression of Wnt/PCP components was tested in refined in vivo and in vitro assays. Overexpression of Vangl2 and Ptk7, but not Pk1 in NMPs regions in vivo resulted in loss of contribution to neural lineages, as well as lower contribution to NMP regions themselves. Similarly, Wnt/PCP components were disrupted in vitro through generation of dox-inducible overexpression cells lines for Wnt/PCP components. These lines were used to generate NMPs from an optimised novel alternative source Epiblast-Like Cells (EpiLCs), however no clear affect to lineage was observed. Overall this work has successfully advanced our knowledge of Wnt/PCP mediated control of NMP differentiation and maintenance, and provided a finer grained description of the relationships between them.