Functional analysis of the mospd gene family
Mospd3, a gene located on mouse chromosome 5, was identified in a gene trap screen in ES cells. The gene trap vector integration in multiple copies into the putative promoter of the gene, resulted in a loss of expression of Mospd3 at the trapped allele. In mice generated from ES cells carrying the vector integration it was found that the lack of Mospd3 expression resulted in the death of a proportion of the homozygote mutants within the first day after birth. Homozygote neonates exhibited a thinning of the right ventricular free heart wall which resembles other mouse mutant phenotypes as well as human congenital heart defects caused by a loss of desmosome and adherens junction mediated cell adhesion between cardiomyocytes. The protein encoded by Mospd3, contains an N-terminal Major Sperm Protein (MSP) domain implicated as a mediator of protein- protein interactions, as well as a two C-terminal transmembrane domains. Both, protein structure and phenotypic similarities with defects in desmosomal and adherens junction proteins suggests that Mospd proteins might play a role in cell adhesion and maintaining the structural integrity of the heart. The phenotype of Mospd3 mutants was highly dependent on genetic background, which led us to speculate that there might be genetic redundancy between Mospd3 and its closest family member the X-linked Mospd1. The aims of this thesis were to generate tools to better understand the function of the Mospd gene family in cardiac development as well as assessing genetic redundancy between Mospd1 and Mospd3. A conditional gene targeting strategy was designed for both Mospd genes. Large genomic regions of the Mospd1 and Mospd3 loci were subcloned from bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) and using a recombineering approach, loxP sites and a drug selection cassette (neomycin) were placed in precise locations surrounding the MSP domain of both genes. The conditional targeting vectors were electroporated into both CGR8 and E14 ES cells and homologous recombinant clones were identified at a frequency of 2% and 1.3% for Mospd1 and Mospd3 respectively. Five euploid targeted clones for both Mospd1 and Mospd3 have been generated. Transient expression of Cre recombinase in ES cells carrying the conditional Mospd1 allele was used to delete the one copy of this X-linked gene. Phenotypic characterisation of this null ES cell line revealed that Mospd1 is neither essential for ES cell viability and self-renewal, nor for the early differentiation of these cells towards a cardiac fate. In order to investigate the mechanism of action of Mospd proteins, specific polyclonal antibodies were generated to detect either Mospd1 or Mospd3. These antibodies were purified and tested by western blotting using COS7 cells overexpressing either Mospd protein as well as mouse tissue lysates. Whilst the antibodies were found to detect the proteins and differentiate between Mospd1 and Mospd3, they showed insufficient purification to be used in co-localisation and co-immunoprecipitation experiments to identify interacting proteins and determine whether Mospd proteins are involved in cell adhesion complexes. Monoclonal antibodies were subsequently generated and initial western blotting experiments showed promising results, indicating that these antibodies may be better suited for immunohistochemical analysis of Mospd proteins.