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An investigation into how the cell cycle and the Notch signalling pathway regulate pronephrogenesis in Xenopus laevis

By Richard William Naylor


The connections between cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation remain poorly understood. Cyclin dependent Kinase Inhibitors (CKIs) provide a possible link between entry into the quiescent state and differentiation. The initial aim of this project was to further investigate if the CKI p27Xic1 could promote differentiation in addition to, and independently of, its well characterised cell cycle exit function. p27Xic1 has been shown to be involved in cell fate determination during gliogenesis, neurogenesis, myogenesis and cardiogenesis and many mammalian Cip/ Kip CKI homologues of p27Xic1 have been described as important regulators of cellular processes beyond control of cell division. We aimed to investigate these roles during development of the embryonic kidney, the pronephros. We discovered that p27Xic1 does not affect differentiation during pronephrogenesis, but instead controls pronephric organ size through its cell cycle exit function. In addition we identified a previously unrecognised role for the cell cycle exit function of p27Xic1 in allocation of the somites during paraxial mesoderm segmentation.\ud \ud Preliminary results had suggested p27Xic1 expression in the pronephros was under the control of the Notch signalling pathway. Over-expressing a constitutively active form of Notch, Notch-ICD, and a dominant negative form of the Delta ligand, DeltaSTU, showed that both mis-activation and suppression of Notch signalling inhibited p27Xic1 expression. However, when investigating the effects these overexpressions had on pronephros development, we identified novel results indicating the Notch signalling pathway, which has previously been implicated in pronephros development, is essential for the separation of the proximal lateral and medial pronephric mesoderms. This process we propose is mediated by the Notch signalling pathway through the establishment of a boundary between these two distinct populations of cells, permitting both compartments to develop in isolation. \ud \ud The results in this thesis suggest novel mechanisms by which cell division controls X. laevis segmentation and organ size and how the Notch signalling pathway is able to pattern the pronephros anlagen such that the different compartments of the mature pronephros are able to develop, and thus function

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