Epithelial heparan sulfate regulates Sonic Hedgehog signaling in lung development
by Hua He, Meina Huang, Shenfei Sun, Yihui Wu, Xinhua LinThe tree-like structure of the mammalian lung is generated from branching morphogenesis, a reiterative process that is precisely regulated by numerous factors. How the cell surface and extra cellular matrix (ECM) molecules regulate this process is still poorly understood. Herein, we show that epithelial deletion of Heparan Sulfate (HS) synthetase Ext1 resulted in expanded branching tips and reduced branching number, associated with several mesenchymal developmental defects. We further demonstrate an expanded Fgf10 expression and increased FGF signaling activity in Ext1 mutant lungs, suggesting a cell non-autonomous mechanism. Consistent with this, we observed reduced levels of SHH signaling which is responsible for suppressing Fgf10 expression. Moreover, reactivating SHH signaling in mutant lungs rescued the tip dilation phenotype and attenuated FGF signaling. Importantly, the reduced SHH signaling activity did not appear to be caused by decreased Shh expression or protein stability; instead, biologically active form of SHH proteins were reduced in both the Ext1 mutant epithelium and surrounding wild type mesenchymal cells. Together, our study highlights the epithelial HS as a key player for dictating SHH signaling critical for lung morphogenesis.
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