Molecular patterning of the embryonic cranial mesenchyme revealed by genome-wide transcriptional profiling

Krishnakali Dasgupta, Jong Uk Chung, Kesava Asam, Juhee Jeong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the head of an embryo, a layer of mesenchyme surrounds the brain underneath the surface ectoderm. This cranial mesenchyme gives rise to the meninges, the calvaria (top part of the skull), and the dermis of the scalp. Abnormal development of these structures, especially the meninges and the calvaria, is linked to significant congenital defects in humans. It has been known that different areas of the cranial mesenchyme have different fates. For example, the calvarial bone develops from the cranial mesenchyme on the baso-lateral side of the head just above the eye (supraorbital mesenchyme, SOM), but not from the mesenchyme apical to SOM (early migrating mesenchyme, EMM). However, the molecular basis of this difference is not fully understood. To answer this question, we compared the transcriptomes of EMM and SOM using high-throughput sequencing (RNA-seq). This experiment identified a large number of genes that were differentially expressed in EMM and SOM, and gene ontology analyses found very different terms enriched in each region. We verified the expression of about 40 genes in the head by RNA in situ hybridization, and the expression patterns were annotated to make a map of molecular markers for 6 subdivisions of the cranial mesenchyme. Our data also provided insights into potential novel regulators of cranial mesenchyme development, including several axon guidance pathways, lectin complement pathway, cyclic-adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signaling pathway, and ZIC family transcription factors. Together, information in this paper will serve as a unique resource to guide future research on cranial mesenchyme development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-448
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2019


  • Calvaria
  • Cranial mesenchyme
  • Craniofacial development
  • Meninges
  • Mouse
  • Transcriptional profiling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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