YAP promotes neural crest emigration through interactions with BMP and Wnt activities


Premigratory neural crest progenitors undergo an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and leave the neural tube as motile cells. Previously, we showed that BMP generates trunk neural crest emigration through canonical Wnt signaling which in turn stimulates G1/S transition. The molecular network underlying this process is, however, not yet completely deciphered.

Yes-associated-protein (YAP), an effector of the Hippo pathway, controls various aspects of development including cell proliferation, migration, survival and differentiation. In this study, we examined the possible involvement of YAP in neural crest emigration and its relationship with BMP and Wnt.


We implemented avian embryos in which levels of YAP gene activity were either reduced or upregulated by in ovo plasmid electroporation, and monitored effects on neural crest emigration, survival and proliferation. Neural crest-derived sensory neuron and melanocyte development were assessed upon gain of YAP function. Imunohistochemistry was used to assess YAP expression. In addition, the activity of specific signaling pathways including YAP, BMP and Wnt was monitored with specific reporters.


We find that the Hippo pathway transcriptional co-activator YAP is expressed and is active in premigratory crest of avian embryos. Gain of YAP function stimulates neural crest emigration in vivo, and attenuating YAP inhibits cell exit. This is associated with an accumulation of FoxD3-expressing cells in the dorsal neural tube, with reduced proliferation, and enhanced apoptosis. Furthermore, gain of YAP function inhibits differentiation of Islet-1-positive sensory neurons and augments the number of EdnrB2-positive melanocytes. Using specific in vivo reporters, we show that loss of YAP function in the dorsal neural tube inhibits BMP and Wnt activities whereas gain of YAP function stimulates these pathways. Reciprocally, inhibition of BMP and Wnt signaling by noggin or Xdd1, respectively, downregulates YAP activity. In addition, YAP-dependent stimulation of neural crest emigration is compromised upon inhibition of either BMP or Wnt activities. Together, our results suggest a positive bidirectional cross talk between these pathways.


Our data show that YAP is necessary for emigration of neural crest progenitors. In addition, they incorporate YAP signaling into a BMP/Wnt-dependent molecular network responsible for emigration of trunk-level neural crest.

Authors: Deepak Kumar, Erez Nitzan and Chaya Kalcheim
Year of publication: 2019
Journal: Cell Communication and Signaling, 17:69

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