Snail and Zeb transcription factors induce epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in embryonic and adult tissues by direct repression of E-cadherin transcription. The repression of E-cadherin transcription by the EMT inducers Snail1 and Zeb2 plays a fundamental role in defining embryonic territories in the mouse, as E-cadherin needs to be downregulated in the primitive streak and in the epiblast, concomitant with the formation of mesendodermal precursors and the neural plate, respectively. Here, we show that in the chick embryo, E-cadherin is weakly expressed in the epiblast at pre-primitive streak stages where it is substituted for by P-cadherin. We also show that Snail2 and Zeb2 repress P-cadherin transcription in the primitive streak and the neural plate, respectively. This indicates that E- and P-cadherin expression patterns evolved differently between chick and mouse. As such, the Snail1/E-cadherin axis described in the early mouse embryo corresponds to Snail2/P-cadherin in the chick, but both Snail factors and Zeb2 fulfil a similar role in chick and mouse in directly repressing ectodermal cadherin genes to contribute to the delamination of mesendodermal precursors at gastrulation and the proper specification of the neural ectoderm during neural induction.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
H.A. designed and performed the majority of experiments, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript; O.H.O. contributed to electroporation experiments; D.A. performed expression studies; C.D.S. interpreted the data, hosted H.A. for the completion of some experiments and contributed to the writing of the manuscript; M.A.N. conceived the project, designed experiments, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript.
This work was supported by grants from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (BFU2008-01042 and BFU2014-53128-R), by the Generalitat Valenciana (PROMETEOII/2013/002) and by the European Research Council (ERC AdG 322694) to M.A.N., who also acknowledges financial support from the Agencia Estatal de Investigación, through the ‘Severo Ochoa’ Programme for Centres of Excellence in R&D (SEV-2013-0317).
The whole P-cadherin gene sequence was deposited in GenBank with the Accession Number KY120274.
Supplementary information available online at http://dev.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/dev.142562.supplemental
- Received July 25, 2016.
- Accepted December 23, 2016.