Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 163–178 | Cite as

Deficiency of lrp4 in zebrafish and human LRP4 mutation induce aberrant activation of Jagged–Notch signaling in fin and limb development

  • Jing TianEmail author
  • Jinhui Shao
  • Cong Liu
  • Hsin-Yu Hou
  • Chih-Wei Chou
  • Mohammad Shboul
  • Guo-Qing Li
  • Mohammad El-Khateeb
  • Omar Q. Samarah
  • Yao Kou
  • Yu-Hsuan Chen
  • Mei-Jen Chen
  • Zhaojie Lyu
  • Wei-Leng Chen
  • Yu-Fu Chen
  • Yong-Hua Sun
  • Yi-Wen LiuEmail author
Original Article


Low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 4 (LRP4) is a multi-functional protein implicated in bone, kidney and neurological diseases including Cenani-Lenz syndactyly (CLS), sclerosteosis, osteoporosis, congenital myasthenic syndrome and myasthenia gravis. Why different LRP4 mutation alleles cause distinct and even contrasting disease phenotypes remain unclear. Herein, we utilized the zebrafish model to search for pathways affected by a deficiency of LRP4. The lrp4 knockdown in zebrafish embryos exhibits cyst formations at fin structures and the caudal vein plexus, malformed pectoral fins, defective bone formation and compromised kidney morphogenesis; which partially phenocopied the human LRP4 mutations and were reminiscent of phenotypes resulting form a perturbed Notch signaling pathway. We discovered that the Lrp4-deficient zebrafish manifested increased Notch outputs in addition to enhanced Wnt signaling, with the expression of Notch ligand jagged1b being significantly elevated at the fin structures. To examine conservatism of signaling mechanisms, the effect of LRP4 missense mutations and siRNA knockdowns, including a novel missense mutation c.1117C > T (p.R373W) of LRP4, were tested in mammalian kidney and osteoblast cells. The results showed that LRP4 suppressed both Wnt/β-Catenin and Notch signaling pathways, and these activities were perturbed either by LRP4 missense mutations or by a knockdown of LRP4. Our finding underscore that LRP4 is required for limiting Jagged–Notch signaling throughout the fin/limb and kidney development, whose perturbation representing a novel mechanism for LRP4-related diseases. Moreover, our study reveals an evolutionarily conserved relationship between LRP4 and Jagged–Notch signaling, which may shed light on how the Notch signaling is fine-tuned during fin/limb development.


Skeletogenesis Bone disorders Pronephros Morphant Phenocopy EGF-like domain wt1b HES1 



We are indebted to the family for kindly partaking in this study. We are grateful to Prof. Bernd Wollnik, Dr. Thomas J. Carney and Prof. David Virshup for the kind provision of plasmids. We also thank Prof. Baojie Li for the kind gift of MC3T3-E1 cell line; Prof. Christoph Englert for the kind gift of the Tg(wt1b:GFP)(line 1) zebrafish strain; Dr. Xingang Wang and Ms. Pang Zhan for assistance on gene cloning; Mr. Kuan-Chieh Wang for statistical help; Ms. Wei-Ru (Lydia) Hsiao and Chia-Yu Chang for aquarium care; the Taiwan Zebrafish Core Facility at NHRI (TZCF@NHRI), the Taiwan Zebrafish Core Facility at Academia Sinica (TZCAS) and Northwest University Zebrafish Core Facility for assistance with fish culture.

Authors’ contributions

JT and Y-WL conceived the study, designed the experiments and prepared the manuscript. JS, CL, H-YH, C-WC, GL, YK, Y-HC, M-JC, ZL, W-LC, Y-FC and Y-HS prepared the samples, performed the experiments and analyzed the data. MS, ME-K, and OQS diagnosed the patient.


This work was supported by Natural Science Foundation of Shaanxi Province, China (2016JM3018); Opening Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology, China (2018FB10); Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST) 106-2313-B-029-002-MY3, 105-2313-B-029-002 and 102-2628-B-029-002-MY3.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary material

18_2018_2928_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (983 kb)
Figure S1. Alignment of human, mouse and zebrafish LRP4 amino acid sequences. The zebrafish sequence lacks 39 amino acid residues at the C-terminal region. (PDF 982 kb)
18_2018_2928_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (552 kb)
Figure S2. Homology modeling of human, mouse and zebrafish LRP4 proteins. Template-based structure prediction of LRP4 protein structures was performed by SWISS-MODEL, and the predicted 3D structures from three species were superimposed by PyMOL. The templates used for modeling each region are: Region I, Low-density lipoprotein receptor (1n7d.1.A); Region II and III, Low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6 chain A (5gje.1.A). AA, amino acids. (PDF 551 kb)
18_2018_2928_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (579 kb)
Figure S3. The effect of lrp4-sdMO on the RNA splicing of lrp4. (A) RT-PCR analysis was used to examine whether the lrp4-sdMO affects the splicing of intron 15 of lrp4 pre-mRNA. The primer set was designed to amplify the cDNA sequence spanning through the junction between exons 15 and 16. The exon–intron organization was predicted by BLASTing the lrp4 cDNA sequence to GRCz10 (Ensembl). Retention of partial intron 15 of the lrp4 pre-mRNA sequence (#2 band of RT-PCR products) was detected in the lrp4 morphant at 10 hpf, which is predicted to cause an in-frame early stop codon (highlighted in light blue). (B) Increasing doses of lrp4-sdMO led to reductions of lrp4 mRNA expression as analyzed by semi-quantitative RT-PCR. The gel picture shown is a representative of triplicate experiments. The intensity of #1 band from the gel picture was subject to densitometric analysis (lower panel) for semi-quantitative measurements of wild-type lrp4 mRNA expressions. The average of three separate experiments shows a significant dose-dependent decrease of #1 band product from 0.2 to 1.2 pmol of lrp4-sdMO injections. Apart from the #2 band of mis-spliced product, one more mis-spliced product was present in trace amounts (indicated by yellow star). (C) Quantitative analysis of mis-spliced products by qRT-PCR using the intron-15 specific primer. A representative gel picture of the mis-spliced product and its housekeeping control (eelf1a) from qRT-PCR is shown in the lower panel. The results of semi-quantitative RT-PCR in (B) and qRT-PCR in (C) were the average of triplicate experiments using 10 embryos in each treatment group for one RT reaction. *P<0.05. (Student’s t test) (PDF 579 kb)
18_2018_2928_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (373 kb)
Figure S4. The posterior trunk and tail phenotypes of lrp4-sd morphants. (A) Injections of lrp4-sd MO (0.4 pmol/embryo), tp53MO (0.5 pmol/embryo) and lrp4-sdMO/tp53MO led to mild dysmorphogenesis in the posterior trunk and tail regions at 24 hpf. (B) Abnormal accumulation of blood cells (red arrows) at the caudal vein plexus in the class I to III of lrp4-sd morphants was captured by live imaging. (C) Acridine orange staining revealed apoptotic cells (orange arrows) in the tail region of the control embryo, which were apparently reduced in the tp53 morphant; whereas no apoptotic cells were detected in either lrp4-sd morphants or lrp4-sd/tp53 double morphants. Scale bar: 100 μm. (PDF 373 kb)
18_2018_2928_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (212 kb)
Figure S5. The effect of lrp4-atgMO on the median fin fold phenotype and the Notch pathway. (A) lrp4-sdMO led to blistering phenotype in the caudal vein plexus and the median fin fold. Phenotypic classification is according to what is described in Fig. 2H. (B) The expression of genes which are components of Notch pathway was analyzed by qRT-PCR for lrp4-atg morphants and STD-MO injected control embryos at 2 dpf. The results were the average of triplicate experiments using 10 embryos in each treatment group for one RT reaction. ***P<0.0001 (Student’s t test). (PDF 212 kb)
18_2018_2928_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (162 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (PDF 162 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Tian
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Jinhui Shao
    • 1
  • Cong Liu
    • 1
  • Hsin-Yu Hou
    • 2
  • Chih-Wei Chou
    • 2
  • Mohammad Shboul
    • 3
  • Guo-Qing Li
    • 1
  • Mohammad El-Khateeb
    • 4
  • Omar Q. Samarah
    • 5
  • Yao Kou
    • 1
  • Yu-Hsuan Chen
    • 2
  • Mei-Jen Chen
    • 2
  • Zhaojie Lyu
    • 1
  • Wei-Leng Chen
    • 2
  • Yu-Fu Chen
    • 2
  • Yong-Hua Sun
    • 6
  • Yi-Wen Liu
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.The College of Life SciencesNorthwest UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Department of Life ScienceTunghai UniversityTaichungTaiwan
  3. 3.Department of Medical Laboratory SciencesJordan University of Science and TechnologyIrbidJordan
  4. 4.National Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology and GeneticsAmmanJordan
  5. 5.Orthopedic Division, Special Surgery Department, School of MedicineThe University of JordanAmmanJordan
  6. 6.State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and BiotechnologyWuhanChina

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