Expression of the Wnt inhibitor Dickkopf-1 is required for the induction of neural markers in mouse embryonic stem cells differentiating in response to retinoic acid

Authors


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Daniela Melchiorri, PhD, Department of Human Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185, Rome, Italy. E-mail: daniela.melchiorri@uniroma1.it

Abstract

Cultured mouse D3 embryonic stem (ES) cells differentiating into embryoid bodies (EBs) expressed several Wnt isoforms, nearly all isotypes of the Wnt receptor Frizzled and the Wnt/Dickkopf (Dkk) co-receptor low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP) type 5. A 4-day treatment with retinoic acid (RA), which promoted neural differentiation of EBs, substantially increased the expression of the Wnt antagonist Dkk-1, and induced the synthesis of the Wnt/Dkk-1 co-receptor LRP6. Recombinant Dkk-1 applied to EBs behaved like RA in inducing the expression of the neural markers nestin and distal-less homeobox gene (Dlx-2). Recombinant Dkk-1 was able to inhibit the Wnt pathway, as shown by a reduction in nuclear β-catenin levels. Remarkably, the antisense- or small interfering RNA-induced knockdown of Dkk-1 largely reduced the expression of Dlx-2, and the neuronal marker β-III tubulin in EBs exposed to RA. These data suggest that induction of Dkk-1 and the ensuing inhibition of the canonical Wnt pathway is required for neural differentiation of ES cells.

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