Gene expression profiling of postnatal lung development in the marsupial gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) highlights conserved developmental pathways and specific characteristics during lung organogenesis
journal contributionposted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Vengamanaidu Modepalli, Amit Kumar, Julie SharpJulie Sharp, Norman R Saunders, Kevin Nicholas, Christophe Lefèvre
BACKGROUND: After a short gestation, marsupials give birth to immature neonates with lungs that are not fully developed and in early life the neonate partially relies on gas exchange through the skin. Therefore, significant lung development occurs after birth in marsupials in contrast to eutherian mammals such as humans and mice where lung development occurs predominantly in the embryo. To explore the mechanisms of marsupial lung development in comparison to eutherians, morphological and gene expression analysis were conducted in the gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica). RESULTS: Postnatal lung development of Monodelphis involves three key stages of development: (i) transition from late canalicular to early saccular stages, (ii) saccular and (iii) alveolar stages, similar to developmental stages overlapping the embryonic and perinatal period in eutherians. Differentially expressed genes were identified and correlated with developmental stages. Functional categories included growth factors, extracellular matrix protein (ECMs), transcriptional factors and signalling pathways related to branching morphogenesis, alveologenesis and vascularisation. Comparison with published data on mice highlighted the conserved importance of extracellular matrix remodelling and signalling pathways such as Wnt, Notch, IGF, TGFβ, retinoic acid and angiopoietin. The comparison also revealed changes in the mammalian gene expression program associated with the initiation of alveologenesis and birth, pointing to subtle differences between the non-functional embryonic lung of the eutherian mouse and the partially functional developing lung of the marsupial Monodelphis neonates. The data also highlighted a subset of contractile proteins specifically expressed in Monodelphis during and after alveologenesis. CONCLUSION: The results provide insights into marsupial lung development and support the potential of the marsupial model of postnatal development towards better understanding of the evolution of the mammalian bronchioalveolar lung.