TBX2 and TBX3 act downstream of canonical WNT signaling in patterning and differentiation of the mouse ureteric mesenchyme

Development. 2018 Nov 26;145(23):dev171827. doi: 10.1242/dev.171827.


The organized array of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and fibroblasts in the walls of visceral tubular organs arises by patterning and differentiation of mesenchymal progenitors surrounding the epithelial lumen. Here, we show that the TBX2 and TBX3 transcription factors have novel and required roles in regulating these processes in the murine ureter. Co-expression of TBX2 and TBX3 in the inner mesenchymal region of the developing ureter requires canonical WNT signaling. Loss of TBX2/TBX3 in this region disrupts activity of two crucial drivers of the SMC program, Foxf1 and BMP4 signaling, resulting in decreased SMC differentiation and increased extracellular matrix. Transcriptional profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that TBX2/TBX3 directly repress expression of the WNT antagonists Dkk2 and Shisa2, the BMP antagonist Bmper and the chemokine Cxcl12 These findings suggest that TBX2/TBX3 are effectors of canonical WNT signaling in the ureteric mesenchyme that promote SMC differentiation by maintaining BMP4 and WNT signaling in the inner region, while restricting CXCL12 signaling to the outer layer of fibroblast-fated mesenchyme.

Keywords: Differentiation; Mouse; Smooth muscle cell; Ureter; Wnt signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4 / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Mesoderm / embryology*
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / pathology
  • Peristalsis
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / genetics
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome / genetics
  • Ureter / embryology*
  • Ureter / metabolism
  • Ureter / pathology
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*


  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • T-Box Domain Protein 2
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • Tbx3 protein, mouse