The Ciliopathy Gene Ftm/Rpgrip1l Controls Mouse Forebrain Patterning via Region-Specific Modulation of Hedgehog/Gli Signaling

J Neurosci. 2019 Mar 27;39(13):2398-2415. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2199-18.2019. Epub 2019 Jan 28.


Primary cilia are essential for CNS development. In the mouse, they play a critical role in patterning the spinal cord and telencephalon via the regulation of Hedgehog/Gli signaling. However, despite the frequent disruption of this signaling pathway in human forebrain malformations, the role of primary cilia in forebrain morphogenesis has been little investigated outside the telencephalon. Here we studied development of the diencephalon, hypothalamus and eyes in mutant mice in which the Ftm/Rpgrip1l ciliopathy gene is disrupted. At the end of gestation, Ftm-/- fetuses displayed anophthalmia, a reduction of the ventral hypothalamus and a disorganization of diencephalic nuclei and axonal tracts. In Ftm-/- embryos, we found that the ventral forebrain structures and the rostral thalamus were missing. Optic vesicles formed but lacked the optic cups. In Ftm-/- embryos, Sonic hedgehog (Shh) expression was virtually lost in the ventral forebrain but maintained in the zona limitans intrathalamica (ZLI), the mid-diencephalic organizer. Gli activity was severely downregulated but not lost in the ventral forebrain and in regions adjacent to the Shh-expressing ZLI. Reintroduction of the repressor form of Gli3 into the Ftm-/- background restored optic cup formation. Our data thus uncover a complex role of cilia in development of the diencephalon, hypothalamus and eyes via the region-specific control of the ratio of activator and repressor forms of the Gli transcription factors. They call for a closer examination of forebrain defects in severe ciliopathies and for a search for ciliopathy genes as modifiers in other human conditions with forebrain defects.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway is essential for proper forebrain development as illustrated by a human condition called holoprosencephaly. The Hh pathway relies on primary cilia, cellular organelles that receive and transduce extracellular signals and whose dysfunctions lead to rare inherited diseases called ciliopathies. To date, the role of cilia in the forebrain has been poorly studied outside the telencephalon. In this paper we study the role of the Ftm/Rpgrip1l ciliopathy gene in mouse forebrain development. We uncover complex functions of primary cilia in forebrain morphogenesis through region-specific modulation of the Hh pathway. Our data call for further examination of forebrain defects in ciliopathies and for a search for ciliopathy genes as modifiers in human conditions affecting forebrain development.

Keywords: Hedgehog/Gli signaling; Rpgrip1l; ciliopathy; forebrain patterning; primary cilia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Eye / embryology
  • Eye / metabolism
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / embryology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Prosencephalon / embryology*
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thalamus / embryology
  • Thalamus / metabolism
  • Zinc Finger Protein Gli3 / metabolism*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Ftm protein, mouse
  • Gli3 protein, mouse
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Shh protein, mouse
  • Zinc Finger Protein Gli3