twisted gastrulation: Biological Overview | Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

Gene name - twisted gastrulation

Synonyms -

Cytological map position - 11A1-8

Function - dorsal ectoderm fate

Keywords - dorsal/ventral patterning genes

Symbol - tsg

FlyBase ID:FBgn0003865

Genetic map position - 1-[37]

Classification - connective tissue growth factor homolog

Cellular location - secreted

NCBI links: Entrez Gene
tsg orthologs: Biolitmine

The dorsal region of the blastula is subdivided into the dorsal midline, and more laterally into the dorsal ectoderm. tsg is expressed in the dorsal ectoderm in pair rule like stripes (running anterior-posterior) that extend only slightly towards the lateral sides of the embryo. Although tsg is not expressed in the dorsal midline, mutations in tsg lack structures derived from the dorsal midline. Other mutations that affect the dorsal ectoderm, like dpp and tolloid result in a ventralization of the dorsal ectoderm, but not tsg mutants.

It is thought that TSG is secreted by the dorsal ectoderm, affecting cells of the dorsal midline. If so, then a tsg interaction with dpp should be significant. In fact, tsg seems to act neither upstream nor downstream of dpp, but in parallel, affecting cell fate in the dorsal-most cells (Mason, 1994). Nevertheless, a physical interactions between Dpp and Tsg and between Dpp and Tsg vertebrate homologs have been documented (Oelgeschlager, 2000).

The functions of various forms of the Dpp antagonist Short gastrulation (Sog) were examined using the discriminating assay of Drosophila wing development. Misexpression of Drosophila Sog, or its vertebrate counterpart Chordin, generates a very limited vein-loss phenotype. This sog misexpression phenotype is very similar to that of viable mutants of glass-bottom boat (gbb), which encodes a BMP family member. Consistent with Sog selectively interfering with Gbb signaling, Sog can block the effect of misexpressing Gbb, but not Dpp in the wing. In contrast to the limited BMP inhibitory activity of Sog, carboxy-truncated forms of Sog, referred to as Supersog, have been identified which when misexpressed cause a broad range of dpp minus mutant phenotypes. Evidence is provided that Twisted gastrulation functions in the embryo to generate a Supersog-like activity, perhaps by modifying the enzymic activity of Tolloid, the enzyme that processes Sog (Yu, 2000).

The predicted Sog protein is 1038 amino acids in length and contains four cysteine-rich (CR) domains in the extracellular domain. The metalloprotease Tld cleaves Sog at three major sites. Supersog1 is an N-terminal fragment of Sog including CR1 plus another 114 amino acids, and contains an additional 33 amino acids derived from vector sequences at its C terminus. Supersog2, which contains the same amino acids as Supersog1 but terminates abruptly at the end of Sog sequences, also generates Supersog phenotypes, albeit slightly weaker than those observed with Supersog1. Supersog4 is an N-terminal fragment of Sog ending 80 amino acids before CR2 and includes 130 sog 3' UTR derived amino acids (Yu, 2000).

In line with its phenotypic effects, Supersog can block the effects of both misexpressing Dpp and Gbb in the wing. Vertebrate Noggin, in contrast, acts as a general inhibitor of Dpp signaling, which can interfere with the effect of overexpressing Dpp, but not Gbb. Evidence suggests that Sog processing occurs in vivo and is biologically relevant. Overexpression of intact Sog in embryos and adult wing primordia leads to the developmentally regulated processing of Sog. This in vivo processing of Sog can be duplicated in vitro by treating Sog with a combination of the metalloprotease Tolloid plus Twisted Gastrulation. In accord with this result, coexpression of intact Sog and Tsg in developing wings generates a phenotype very similar to that of Supersog. Evidence is provided that tsg functions in the embryo to generate a Supersog-like activity, since Supersog can partially rescue tsg minus mutants. Consistent with this finding, sog minus and tsg minus mutants exhibit similar dorsal patterning defects during early gastrulation. These results indicate that differential processing of Sog generates a novel BMP inhibitory activity during development and, more generally, that BMP antagonists play distinct roles in regulating the quality as well as the magnitude of BMP signaling (Yu, 2000).

The fact that pulses of Supersog1 expression delivered during the late blastoderm stage of development can partially rescue the tsg minus mutant embryos suggests that a Supersog-like activity might mediate part of tsg function in vivo. In addition, late blastoderm stage tsg minus mutant embryos display defects similar to those of sog mutants, suggesting that tsg is involved in a late function of Sog. Consistent with the view that tsg acts during early gastrulation, tsg minus mutants can not be rescued by driving expression of a tsg transgene under the control of the tld promoter, which is expressed only early during the blastoderm stage. In contrast, it is possible to rescue tsg minus mutants by driving tsg expression with promoters that continue to be expressed into early gastrulation. Several possible ways in which Supersog-like activities could contribute to this stage of development can be imagined, given that they have different ligand specificities from intact Sog and are stable to further proteolysis by Tld. Since Sog has been proposed to block the activity of Scw in embryos, it is likely that some other BMP is the preferred target of Supersog molecules. In addition, since Scw is only expressed transiently during the blastoderm stage of development, intact Sog would have no obvious target to inhibit beyond this stage. Perhaps a stable broad-spectrum BMP antagonist such as Supersog could inhibit the action of other BMPs expressed in the dorsal ectoderm during early stages of gastrulation (possibly Dpp itself) and thereby provide a form of molecular memory, which helps maintain the distinction between neural and non-neural ectoderm (Yu, 2000).

The observation that Supersog is less effective than Sog in blocking BMP signaling in the early embryo is consistent with the view that Supersog is not just a higher affinity version of Sog and suggests that Supersog is actually less effective than Sog at blocking the effect of Scw. The fact that Supersog does not inhibit Dpp itself during early blastoderm stages is likely to be the result of insufficient levels of Supersog being expressed by the heat shock vector. It is possible, however, that an endogenously produced Supersog activity (e.g. generated upon Tsg binding to Sog) has a higher affinity for Dpp than the artificially created Supersog1 construct. In any case, it is proposed that Supersog acts in the late blastoderm embryo or during early gastrulation stages rather than in the early blastoderm embryo, and that during this latter period, it is able to block the activity of a BMP not recognized by Sog (Yu, 2000).

It is tempting to consider a two step temporal model for the action of Sog and Supersog during embryonic dorsal-ventral patterning to account for the fact that sog mutants display a dorsal-ventral phenotype earlier than tsg minus mutants. According to one such scenario, the labile Tld-sensitive form of full-length Sog is produced from a localized source (i.e. the neuroectoderm) and diffuses dorsally to be degraded by Tld. Tld acts as a sink to create a transiently stable gradient of Sog, which creates a reciprocal gradient of Dpp activity. The Sog gradient created by this classic source/sink configuration would only be short-lived, however, since cells begin migrating when gastrulation begins. At this stage, the embryo elongates and the Dorsal gradient collapses, leading to loss of gene expression in early zygotic D/V domains. Following the establishment of the short-lived hypothetical Sog gradient, tsg expression is initiated in dorsal cells and leads to the production of stable Supersog-like molecules by switching the activity of Tld from degrading to activating Sog. Supersog-like molecules then could provide a stable record of high versus low BMP signaling domains during a subsequent step of development (Yu, 2000).

cDNA clone length - 746

Bases in 5' UTR - 26

Exons - one

Bases in 3' UTR - 163


Amino Acids - 249

Structural Domains

Structural analysis of the tsg gene reveals features of a secreted protein suggesting an extracellular site of action. The protein appears to be cleaved upon secretion (Mason, 1994) The TSG protein bears a weak resemblance to human connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), a TGF-beta-induced protein that acts as a chemoattractant and a mitogen. Homology is particularly apparent around conserved cysteine residues (Mason, 1994).

The similarities have been analyzed between the Twisted gastrulation (TSG) proteins known to date; Phylogenetic relations have been determined among the TSG proteins, and between the TSGs and other protein families -- the CCN [for example, CCN2 (CTGF), CCN1 (CYR61), and CCN3 (NOV)] and IGFBP (insulin-like growth factor binding protein) families. TBLASTN and FASTA3 were used to identify new tsg genes and relatives of the TSG family. Several tsg genes from vertebrates and invertebrates were compared. Alignment of protein sequences revealed a highly conserved family of TSG proteins present in both vertebrates and invertebrates, whereas the slightly less well conserved IGFBP and CCN proteins are apparently present only in vertebrates. The TSG proteins display strong homology among themselves and they are composed of a putative signal peptide at the N-terminus followed by a cysteine rich (CR) region, a conserved domain devoid of cysteines, a variable midregion, and a C-terminal CR region. The most striking similarity between the TSGs and the IGFBP and CCN proteins occurs in the N-terminal conserved cysteine rich domain and the characteristic 5' cysteine rich domain(s), spacer region, and 3' cysteine rich domain structure. The family of highly conserved TSG proteins, together with the IGFBP and CCN families, constitute an emerging multigene superfamily of secreted cysteine rich factors. The TSG branch of the superfamily appears to pre-date the others because it is present in all species examined, whereas the CCN and IGFBP genes are found only in vertebrates (Vilmos, 2001).

twisted gastrulation: Evolutionary Homologs | Regulation | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

date revised: 30 January 2004

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