Transcriptional targets of TWIST1 in the cranial mesoderm regulate cell-matrix interactions and mesenchyme maintenance

Heidi Bildsoe, Xiaochen Fan, Emilie E. Wilkie, Ator Ashoti, Vanessa J. Jones, Melinda Power, Jing Qin, Junwen Wang, Patrick P.L. Tam, David A.F. Loebel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


TWIST1, a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor is essential for the development of cranial mesoderm and cranial neural crest-derived craniofacial structures. We have previously shown that, in the absence of TWIST1, cells within the cranial mesoderm adopt an abnormal epithelial configuration via a process reminiscent of a mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET). Here, we show by gene expression analysis that loss of TWIST1 in the cranial mesoderm is accompanied by a reduction in the expression of genes that are associated with cell-extracellular matrix interactions and the acquisition of mesenchymal characteristics. By comparing the transcriptional profiles of cranial mesoderm-specific Twist1 loss-of-function mutant and control mouse embryos, we identified a set of genes that are both TWIST1-dependent and predominantly expressed in the mesoderm. ChIP-seq was used to identify TWIST1-binding sites in an in vitro model of a TWIST1-dependent mesenchymal cell state, and the data were combined with the transcriptome data to identify potential target genes. Three direct transcriptional targets of TWIST1 (Ddr2, Pcolce and Tgfbi) were validated by ChIP-PCR using mouse embryonic tissues and by luciferase assays. Our findings reveal that the mesenchymal properties of the cranial mesoderm are likely to be regulated by a network of TWIST1 targets that influences the extracellular matrix and cell-matrix interactions, and collectively they are required for the morphogenesis of the craniofacial structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-203
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Cranial mesoderm
  • Craniofacial
  • Extracellular matrix-cell interaction
  • Mesenchyme
  • Twist1
  • bHLH factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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