Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) transcription and ribosome biogenesis are global processes required for growth and proliferation of all cells, yet perturbation of these processes in vertebrates leads to tissue-specific defects termed ribosomopathies. Mutations in rRNA transcription and processing proteins often lead to craniofacial anomalies; however, the cellular and molecular reasons for these defects are poorly understood. Therefore, we examined the function of the most abundant nucleolar phosphoprotein, Nucleolin (Ncl), in vertebrate development. ncl mutant (ncl-/-) zebrafish present with craniofacial anomalies such as mandibulofacial hypoplasia. We observed that ncl-/- mutants exhibited decreased rRNA synthesis and p53-dependent apoptosis, consistent with a role in ribosome biogenesis. However, we found that Nucleolin also performs functions not associated with ribosome biogenesis. We discovered that the half-life of fgf8a mRNA was reduced in ncl-/- mutants, which perturbed Fgf signaling, resulting in misregulated Sox9a-mediated chondrogenesis and Runx2-mediated osteogenesis. Consistent with this model, exogenous FGF8 treatment significantly rescued the cranioskeletal phenotype in ncl-/- zebrafish, suggesting that Nucleolin regulates osteochondroprogenitor differentiation. Our work has therefore uncovered tissue-specific functions for Nucleolin in rRNA transcription and post-transcriptional regulation of growth factor signaling during embryonic craniofacial development.
Keywords: Craniofacial development; FGF signaling; Neural crest cells; Nucleolin; P53; Ribosomal RNA; Zebrafish.
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