Asymmetric requirement of surface epithelial β-catenin during the upper and lower jaw development

Dev Dyn. 2012 Apr;241(4):663-74. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.23755. Epub 2012 Feb 21.


Background: Intercellular communication between epithelial and mesenchymal cells is central to mammalian craniofacial development. β-catenin is the gateway of canonical Wnt signaling, one of the major evolutionarily conserved cell-cell communication pathways in metazoa. In this study, we report an unexpected stage- and tissue-specific function of β-catenin during mammalian jaw development.

Results: Using a unique mouse genetic tool, we have discovered that epithelial β-catenin is essential for lower jaw formation, while attenuation of β-catenin is required for proper upper jaw development. Changes in β-catenin in vivo alter major epithelial Fgf8, Bmp4, Shh, and Edn1 signals, resulting in partial transcriptional reprogramming of the neural crest-derived mesenchyme, the primary source of jawbones.

Conclusions: The Wnt/β-catenin signal coordinates expression of multiple epithelial signals and has stage-specific asymmetric functions during mammalian upper and lower jaw development. In addition, these findings suggest that evolutionary changes of the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway may lead to innovation of jaws.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelium / embryology
  • Epithelium / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Jaw / embryology*
  • Jaw / physiology
  • Mesoderm / embryology
  • Mesoderm / physiology
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity
  • Signal Transduction
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / physiology*


  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin