After palatal fusion, the dorsal and ventral epithelia of the palatal shelf differentiate into the nasal and oral mucosa, respectively. The tissue-specific differentiation of palatal epithelia along the dorsal–ventral axis is regulated by the signaling molecules expressed in the underlying mesenchyme. Thus, as in many other epithelial organs, differentiation relies on epithelial–mesenchymal interactions. To screen for region-specific mesenchymal signaling molecules that determine the fate of the palatal epithelia, we employed a laser microdissection (LMD) method. LMD allowed us to collect region-specific mesenchymal tissues at E13, prior to palatal fusion and the development of distinct dorsal and ventral epithelial morphology. Genome-wide screening was performed on the tissues collected using LMD to identify candidate mesenchymal signaling molecules. The microarray results were validated using real-time quantitative (qPCR) and in situ hybridization methods. The developmental role and interactions of the candidate genes were evaluated in in vitro-cultivated E13 palates using an anti-sense oligodeoxynucleotide (AS-ODN)-based loss-of-function approach. Apparent changes in the expression patterns of Runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2) and LIM homeobox 8 (Lhx8) were observed after knocking down each gene. Knock-down of Runx2 and Lhx8 also altered the immunolocalization pattern of cytokeratin18 (CK18), an established marker for nasal epithelium. These results were confirmed using Runx2 heterozygote mice. The mesenchymal signaling molecules Runx2 and Lhx8, which possess region-specific expression patterns along the dorsoventral axis, functionally interact to regulate the cellular and molecular characteristics of dorsal and ventral epithelia, suggesting that mesenchymal signaling molecules determine the dorsoventral fate of epithelial structures in the developing palate.
- Dorsal and ventral patterning
- Epithelial differentiation
- Epithelial–mesenchymal interactions
- Genome–wide screening
- Palatal development