Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Houston, Douglas W.

First Committee Member

Cornell, Robert A.

Second Committee Member

Slusarski, Diane C.

Third Committee Member

Weeks, Daniel L.

Fourth Committee Member

Weiner, Joshua A.


The vegetal cortex of the Xenopus oocyte is enriched for several mRNAs critical for early embryonic developmental processes, including germ layer specification and dorsoventral axis formation. A recent microarray screen for other vegetally localized RNAs identified several hundred novel cortex-enriched transcripts, which may have undiscovered roles in early development. In order to better elucidate the functions of localized mRNAs in early development, I characterized the spatiotemporal expression patterns and developmental functions of two novel transcripts, TRIO and F-actin binding protein (triobp) and Cdc42 effector protein 4-like (cep4l).

Overexpression and loss-of-function experiments failed to identify a critical role for TrioBP in early Xenopus development. For Cep4l, I found that overexpression of Cep4l induced primary neuron formation throughout the epidermis, preferentially inducing primary sensory neurons. This increase came at the expense of neighboring non-neuronal ciliated and ion-secreting cells, suggesting a role for Cep4l in neural boundary formation. Additionally, I have shown that Cep4l binds specifically to Cdc42 through its known Cdc42/Rac-interactive binding (CRIB) domain, and that this activation was necessary for Cep4l function.

Morpholino (MO) oligonucleotide based inhibition of Cep4l protein synthesis resulted in decreased primary sensory neurogenesis. Additionally, I have shown that Cdc42 itself is required for sensory neurogenesis. Furthermore, I find that Fgf8a, an isoform of Fgf8 previously known to regulate neuronal development, but not the Fgf8b isoform, regulates the association of Cep4l and Cdc42. Importantly, I further show that Cep4l and Cdc42 are required for the ability of Fgf8a to induce sensory neurons.

Overall, this work suggests a novel role for Cep4l and Cdc42 in the regulation of primary sensory neuronal fate downstream of a unique Fgf8 signaling pathway. I propose that binding of Fgf8a to its receptors activates Cdc42 and recruits Cep4l, which could serve as a scaffold for integrating additional signaling pathways involved in controlling sensory neuron fate.


Cdc42, Fgf8a, neurogenesis, Xenopus


ix, 123 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 115-123).


Copyright 2013 Alissa Marie Hulstrand

Included in

Genetics Commons