The mesodiencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons, including the nigrostriatal subset that preferentially degenerates in Parkinson's Disease (PD), strongly depend on an accurately balanced Wingless-type MMTV integration site family member 1 (WNT1)/beta-catenin signaling pathway during their development. Loss of this pathway abolishes the generation of these neurons, whereas excessive WNT1/b-catenin signaling prevents their correct differentiation. The identity of the cells responding to this pathway in the developing mammalian ventral midbrain (VM) as well as the precise progression of WNT/b-catenin action in these cells are still unknown. We show that strong WNT/b-catenin signaling inhibits the differentiation of WNT/b-catenin-responding mdDA progenitors into PITX3(+) and TH+ mdDA neurons by repressing the Pitx3 gene in mice. This effect is mediated by RSPO2, a WNT/b-catenin agonist, and lymphoid enhancer binding factor 1 (LEF1), an essential nuclear effector of the WNT/b-catenin pathway, via conserved LEF1/T-cell factor binding sites in the Pitx3 promoter. LEF1 expression is restricted to a caudolateral mdDA progenitor subset that preferentially responds to WNT/b-catenin signaling and gives rise to a fraction of all mdDA neurons. Our data indicate that an attenuation of WNT/b-catenin signaling in mdDA progenitors is essential for their correct differentiation into specific mdDA neuron subsets. This is an important consideration for stem cell-based regenerative therapies and in vitro models of neuropsychiatric diseases.
FörderungenNational Natural Science Foundation of China United States - Israel Binational Science Foundation Israel Science Foundation Helmholtz Association (Alliance "Aging and Metabolic Programming, AMPro") Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology] Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [Collaborative Research Centre] Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft