Background: Previously, we reported that Sema3A, one of the secreted repulsive axon guidance molecules, CRMP (collapsin response mediator protein)-2, a putative intracellular signalling molecule for Sema3A and Sema3A receptor neuropilin-1 are expressed in the developing lung. Sema3A inhibits branching morphogenesis of embryonic lung in organ culture.
Results: We examined the gene expression of Sema3A, Sema3C, Sema3F and their receptors, NP-1, NP-2 and plexin-A1 by in situ hybridization. Transcripts of all six genes were detected in mouse lung from embryonic day E11.5 to E17.5, and displayed highly specific spatiotemporal distributions. The distribution of the receptor genes was detected in patterns which were consistent with known receptor usage of the semaphorins. In contrast to Sema3A, we found that the other class 3 semaphorins, Sema3C and Sema3F, stimulated branching morphogenesis. This stimulatory effect of Sema3C or Sema3F was accompanied by a moderate increase in the incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) into DNA in the terminal epithelial cells.
Conclusion: The coordinated expression patterns of different semaphorins and their receptors, together with the specific activities affecting branching morphogenesis, suggest that the semaphorins act as both positive and negative regulators of branching morphogenesis in the developing lung.