Craniofacial malformations are among the most common human birth defects, affecting 1/700 births. While many of the genes that underlie these defects are known, the identity and functions of many others are not. The overarching goal of this proposal is evaluate the role of a largely uncharacterized gene, limb bud and heart homolog (lbh), during zebrafish craniofacial development. This gene may mediate CHARGE syndrome, a disease of neural crest cells (NCCs) that includes craniofacial defects such as micrognathia. Additionally, we have associated this gene with the evolution of jaws in cichlids, an evolutionary model that exhibits extensive diversity in craniofacial form, many of which mimic human facial malformations. Combined, these data led to the hypothesis that lbh is a novel regulator of NCC and craniofacial development, which will be tested through the following experimental aims.
Aim 1 : Given the paucity of information about lbh, we will first characterize the expression pattern and cellular specificity of lbh throughout zebrafish facial development using whole-mount and sectioned in situ hybridization and comparison with known craniofacial markers.
Aim 2 : We will evaluate the effects of modulating lbh expression (morpholino knockdown or mRNA overexpression) on the craniofacial skeleton. Preliminary experiments indicate that depletion of Lbh results in reduction of NCCs and commensurate defects in the craniofacial skeleton. Specifically, we will determine if the cellular mechanism of this defect is due to a failure of induction, failure of migration, decreased survival, or premature differentiatin of NCCs using a combination of in situ hybridization, reporter zebrafish strains, and cellular assays.
Aim 3 : We will analyze the functional conservation and evolution of lbh using biologically relevant alleles of lbh isolated from cichlids with differing mandible lengths. Overal, these studies will illuminate the role of lbh in craniofacial development, disease, and evolution.

Public Health Relevance

Craniofacial malformations are among the most common human birth defects, affecting 1/700 births and accounting for almost 1/3 of congenital abnormalities. While many of the genes that underlie these defects are known, the identity and functions of many others are not. This project aims to evaluate a largely uncharacterized gene, limb bud and heart homolog (lbh), as a novel regulator of craniofacial development, disease, and evolution.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Type
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
Project #
5F32DE023707-02
Application #
8721203
Study Section
NIDR Special Grants Review Committee (DSR)
Program Officer
Frieden, Leslie A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Department
Biology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
City
Amherst
State
MA
Country
United States
Zip Code
01003
Parsons, Kevin J; Trent Taylor, A; Powder, Kara E et al. (2014) Wnt signalling underlies the evolution of new phenotypes and craniofacial variability in Lake Malawi cichlids. Nat Commun 5:3629
Powder, Kara E; Cousin, Hélène; McLinden, Gretchen P et al. (2014) A nonsynonymous mutation in the transcriptional regulator lbh is associated with cichlid craniofacial adaptation and neural crest cell development. Mol Biol Evol 31:3113-24
Albertson, R Craig; Powder, Kara E; Hu, Yinan et al. (2014) Genetic basis of continuous variation in the levels and modular inheritance of pigmentation in cichlid fishes. Mol Ecol 23:5135-50