Bipotent neuromesodermal progenitors (NMPs) residing in the caudal epiblast drive coordinated body axis extension by generating both posterior neuroectoderm and presomitic mesoderm. Retinoic acid (RA) is required for body axis extension, however the early molecular response to RA signaling is poorly defined as is its relationship to NMP biology. As endogenous RA is first seen near the time when NMPs appear, we used WNT/FGF agonists to differentiate embryonic stem cells to NMPs which were then treated with a short 2-hour pulse of 25 nM RA or 1 µM RA followed by RNA-seq transcriptome analysis. Differential expression analysis of this dataset indicated that treatment with 25 nM RA, but not 1 µM RA, provided physiologically relevant findings. The 25 nM RA dataset yielded a cohort of previously known caudal RA target genes including Fgf8 (repressed) and Sox2 (activated), plus novel early RA signaling targets with nearby conserved RA response elements. Importantly, validation of top-ranked genes in vivo using RA-deficient Raldh2-/- embryos identified novel examples of RA activation (Nkx1-2, Zfp503, Zfp703, Gbx2, Fgf15, Nt5e) or RA repression (Id1) of genes expressed in the NMP niche or progeny. These findings provide evidence for an early role of RA in controlling differentiation of NMPs to neural and mesodermal lineages.
- Received July 23, 2016.
- Accepted October 26, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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