The secreted metalloprotease ADAMTS20 is required for melanoblast survival.

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ADAMTS20 (Adisintegrin-like and metalloprotease domain with thrombospondin type-1 motifs) is a member of a family of secreted metalloproteases that can process a variety of extracellular matrix (ECM) components and secreted molecules. Adamts20 mutations in belted (bt) mice cause white spotting of the dorsal and ventral torso, indicative of defective neural crest (NC)-derived melanoblast development. The expression pattern of Adamts20 in dermal mesenchymal cells adjacent to migrating melanoblasts led us to initially propose that Adamts20 regulated melanoblast migration. However, using a Dct-LacZ transgene to track melanoblast development, we determined that melanoblasts were distributed normally in whole mount E12.5 bt/bt embryos, but were specifically reduced in the trunk of E13.5 bt/bt embryos due to a seven-fold higher rate of apoptosis. The melanoblast defect was exacerbated in newborn skin and embryos from bt/bt animals that were also haploinsufficient for Adamts9, a close homolog of Adamts20, indicating that these metalloproteases functionally overlap in melanoblast development. We identified two potential mechanisms by which Adamts20 may regulate melanoblast survival. First, skin explant cultures demonstrated that Adamts20 was required for melanoblasts to respond to soluble Kit ligand (sKitl). In support of this requirement, bt/bt;Kit(tm1Alf)/+ and bt/bt;Kitl(Sl)/+ mice exhibited synergistically increased spotting. Second, ADAMTS20 cleaved the aggregating proteoglycan versican in vitro and was necessary for versican processing in vivo, raising the possibility that versican can participate in melanoblast development. These findings reveal previously unrecognized roles for Adamts proteases in cell survival and in mediating Kit signaling during melanoblast colonization of the skin. Our results have implications not only for understanding mechanisms of NC-derived melanoblast development but also provide insights on novel biological functions of secreted metalloproteases.





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Silver, Debra L, Ling Hou, Robert Somerville, Mary E Young, Suneel S Apte and William J Pavan (2008). The secreted metalloprotease ADAMTS20 is required for melanoblast survival. PLoS Genet, 4(2). p. e1000003. 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000003 Retrieved from

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Debra Lynn Silver

Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

How is the brain assembled and sculpted during embryonic development?  Addressing this question has enormous implications for understanding neurodevelopmental disorders affecting brain size and function. In evolutionary terms, our newest brain structure is the cerebral cortex, which drives higher cognitive capacities. The overall mission of my research lab is to elucidate genetic and cellular mechanisms controlling cortical development and contributing to neurodevelopmental pathologies and brain evolution. We study neural progenitors, essential cells which generate neurons and are the root of brain development. We are guided by the premise that the same mechanisms at play during normal development were co-opted during evolution and when dysregulated, can cause neurodevelopmental disease.

My research program employs a multifaceted strategy to bridge developmental neurobiology, RNA biology, and evolution. 1) We investigate how cell fates are specified, by studying how progenitor divisions influence development and disease.  2) We study diverse layers of post-transcriptional regulation in neural progenitors. We investigate RNA binding proteins implicated in development and neurological disease. Using live imaging, we also investigate how sub-cellular control of mRNA localization and translation influences neural progenitors. 3) A parallel research focus is to understand how human-specific genetic changes influence species-specific brain development. Our goal is to integrate our efforts across these three major lines of research to understand the intricacies controlling brain development.

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