The Hippo pathway component Wwc2 is a key regulator of embryonic development and angiogenesis in mice

Cell Death Dis. 2021 Jan 22;12(1):117. doi: 10.1038/s41419-021-03409-0.


The WW-and-C2-domain-containing (WWC) protein family is involved in the regulation of cell differentiation, cell proliferation, and organ growth control. As upstream components of the Hippo signaling pathway, WWC proteins activate the Large tumor suppressor (LATS) kinase that in turn phosphorylates Yes-associated protein (YAP) and its paralog Transcriptional coactivator-with-PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) preventing their nuclear import and transcriptional activity. Inhibition of WWC expression leads to downregulation of the Hippo pathway, increased expression of YAP/TAZ target genes and enhanced organ growth. In mice, a ubiquitous Wwc1 knockout (KO) induces a mild neurological phenotype with no impact on embryogenesis or organ growth. In contrast, we could show here that ubiquitous deletion of Wwc2 in mice leads to early embryonic lethality. Wwc2 KO embryos display growth retardation, a disturbed placenta development, impaired vascularization, and finally embryonic death. A whole-transcriptome analysis of embryos lacking Wwc2 revealed a massive deregulation of gene expression with impact on cell fate determination, cell metabolism, and angiogenesis. Consequently, a perinatal, endothelial-specific Wwc2 KO in mice led to disturbed vessel formation and vascular hypersprouting in the retina. In summary, our data elucidate a novel role for Wwc2 as a key regulator in early embryonic development and sprouting angiogenesis in mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hippo Signaling Pathway
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases