Int. J. Dev. Biol. 63: 605 - 613 (2019)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.190098LC
© UPV/EHU Press

Hedgehog signaling dynamics in mouse embryos determined by a bioluminiscent reporter

David Hernández-García, Daniel Fuentes-Jiménez, Verónica Rojo-León, Christopher Wood*, Celina García* and Luis Covarrubias*

Departamento de Genética del Desarrollo y Fisiología Molecular, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Morelos, México

ABSTRACT Determination of cellular signaling in live embryos is key to understand the molecular processes that drive development. Here, we show that a transgenic mouse line carrying a luciferase-based gene reporter of Gli-mediated transcriptional activation (Gli-Luc) displays sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling in discrete developmental processes during short-term cultures of whole embryos or embryo explants. The bioluminescence in E9.5 embryos was detected in regions in which Shh activity has been demonstrated. Later, in E10.5 embryos, bioluminescence intensity markedly increased, mostly corresponding to the high Shh activity of the developing midbrain and limb. Notably, the dynamic range of the Gli-Luc reporter in the developing limb revealed the progressive emergence of bioluminescence in the zone of polarizing activity, where reporter activity locally increased and spatially spread in agreement with the signaling gradient expected for Shh. In the midbrain of E9.5 mouse embryos, bioluminescence was not detected along the ventral region as expected but, instead, Shh-dependent anterior and posterior bioluminescence foci emerged by E10.5 indicating that the Gli-Luc reporter can only respond transcriptionally to relatively high levels of GliA and/or without the interaction with other transcription factors. The present work supports the use of bioluminescence to identify and study the dynamics of centers of morphogen signaling during mouse embryogenesis.

Keywords:

sonic hedgehog, luciferase, embryogenesis, midbrain, limbs

*Corresponding author e-mail: covs@ibt.unam.mx ; celina@ibt.unam.mx ; chris@ibt.unam.mx