Understanding birth defects due to faulty neural tube closure

Understanding birth defects due to faulty neural tube closure

A major class of human birth defects arise from aberrations during neural tube closure (NTC).

Scientists report on a NTC signaling pathway requiring T-type calcium channels (TTCCs) that is conserved between primitive chordates (Ciona) and Xenopus. With loss of TTCCs, there is a failure to seal the anterior neural folds.

Accompanying loss of TTCCs is an upregulation of EphrinA effectors. Ephrin signaling is known to be important in NTC, and ephrins can affect both cell adhesion and repulsion.

In Ciona, ephrinA-d expression is downregulated at the end of neurulation, whereas, with loss of TTCC, ephrinA-d remains elevated.

Accordingly, overexpression of ephrinA-d phenocopied TTCC loss of function, while overexpression of a dominant-negative Ephrin receptor was able to rescue NTC in a Ciona TTCC mutant.

Authors hypothesize that signaling through TTCCs is necessary for proper anterior NTC through downregulation of ephrins, and possibly elimination of a repulsive signal.