Early development of the hippocampus, which is essential for spatial memory and learning, is controlled by secreted signaling molecules of the Wnt gene family and by Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Despite its importance, little is known, however, about Wnt-regulated genes during hippocampal development. Here, we used the Gli3 mutant mouse extra-toes (Xt(J)), in which Wnt gene expression in the forebrain is severely affected, as a tool in a microarray analyses to identify potential Wnt target genes. This approach revealed 53 candidate genes with restricted or graded expression patterns in the dorsomedial telencephalon. We identified conserved Tcf/Lef-binding sites in telencephalon-specific enhancers of several of these genes, including Dmrt3, Gli3, Nfia, and Wnt8b. Binding of Lef1 to these sites was confirmed using electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Mutations in these Tcf/Lef-binding sites disrupted or reduced enhancer activity in vivo. Moreover, ectopic activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in an ex vivo explant system led to increased telencephalic expression of these genes. Finally, conditional inactivation of Gli3 results in defective hippocampal growth. Collectively, these data strongly suggest that we have identified a set of direct Wnt target genes in the developing hippocampus and provide inside into the genetic hierarchy underlying Wnt-regulated hippocampal development.
- Wnt signal