Forming a complex structure such as the mammalian brain requires a complex interplay between cells and different signalling cascades during embryonic development. beta-catenin plays pivotal roles in these processes by mediating cadherin-based cell adhesion and Wnt signalling. We show for the first time that beta-catenin functions predominantly as a mediator of cell adhesion during early development of the mammalian telencephalon. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrates that beta-catenin is localized, together with N-cadherin, to adhesion junctions at the apical lining of the neuroepithelium. The ablation of beta-catenin specifically from the forebrain leads to a disruption of apical adherens junctions and a breakdown of neuroepithelial structures. We show that beta-catenin-deficient neuroepithelial cells delaminate and undergo apoptosis. Newborn beta-catenin mutants lack the entire forebrain and anterior facial structures. Our data also indicate a lack of TCF/LEF-beta-catenin-dependent transcriptional activity in the telencephalon of Wnt reporter embryos. Together with the absence of nuclear beta-catenin, this finding suggests that canonical Wnt signalling is not active during early telencephalic development. In summary, we demonstrate that beta-catenin mediates cell-cell adhesion in the early telencephalon and is vital for maintaining the structural integrity of the neuroepithelium.
Copyright 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc