Antisense oligonucleotide down-regulation of E-cadherin in the yolk sac and cranial neural tube malformations

B. Chen, B. F. Hales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The cadherins are a family of calcium-dependent cell adhesion molecules that are regulated both spatially and temporally during development. Epithelial cadherin (E-cadherin) is present in epithelial cells in both the embryo and yolk sac during organogenesis. The consequences of disrupting the expression of E-cadherin at this stage of development are poorly understood. We report here our studies on the effects of antisense oligonucleotides on E- cadherin in the rat whole embryo culture system. Four 18-base single strand phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotides (AS-oligos), complementary to various regions of the mouse E-cadherin cDNA sequence, were dissolved in saline and injected into the amniotic cavities of 5-7 somite rat embryos; a sense (S- oligo) to oligo-1, an 18-base random sequence oligo (C-oligo), and PBS were used as controls. Embryos were cultured for up to 45 h; embryo morphology and the relative concentrations of E-cadherin protein were examined. All six oligonucleotides (AS-oligos and control oligos) induced malformations when amounts ranging from 25 to 50 pmol of oligonucleotide were injected per embryo. The malformations induced by all the oligos included craniofacial hypoplasia, an enlarged pericardium, twisted spinal cord, swelling of the rhombencephalon, and underdeveloped forelimb. Injection of AS-oligo-1, a sequence starting at the tenth base downstream from the translation initiation codon (ATG), resulted in malformed embryos with a high incidence of cranial neural tube malformations. The effects of AS-oligo-1 on the relative abundance of E- and neural (N)-cadherin proteins were examined by Western blot analysis. In the AS-oligo-1-exposed realformed embryos, the relative abundance of E- and N-cadherin proteins was not altered up to 24 h after injection; E- and N-cadherin concentrations in the embryo were decreased at 45 h postinjection. In contrast, the relative abundance of the E-cadherin protein in the yolk sac was reduced at 1-2 h after injection of AS oligo-1 and returned to control levels by 4 h. S-oligo-1 did not induce any change in the relative abundance of E- or N-cadherins. Thus, there was a tissue-specific and temporary 'knockdown' of E-cadherin expression in the yolk sac of embryos exposed to antisense (AS-oligo-1); the down regulation of yolk sac E-cadherin appears to lead to the induction of neural tube defects in the embryo. The exposure of whole embryos in culture to antisense oligonucleotides provides a model system in which the roles of developmentally important molecules and their spatial and temporal contributions to embryogenesis can be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1238
Number of pages10
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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