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PLoS One


Canonical Wnt/β-catenin (cWnt) signaling is a crucial regulator of development and Dishevelled (Dsh/Dvl) functions as an integral part of this pathway by linking Wnt binding to the Frizzled:LRP5/6 receptor complex with β-catenin-stimulated gene expression. In many cell types Dsh has been localized to ill-defined cytoplasmic puncta, however in sea urchin eggs and embryos confocal fluorescence microscopy has shown that Dsh is localized to puncta present in a novel and development-essential vegetal cortex domain (VCD). In the present study, we used super-resolution light microscopy and platinum replica transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to provide the first views of the ultrastructural organization of Dsh within the sea urchin VCD. 3D structured illumination microscopy (SIM) imaging of isolated egg cortices demonstrated the graded distribution of Dsh in the VCD, whereas higher resolution stimulated emission depletion (STED) imaging revealed that some individual Dsh puncta consisted of more than one fluorescent source. Platinum replica immuno-TEM localization showed that Dsh puncta on the cytoplasmic face of the plasma membrane consisted of aggregates of pedestal-like structures each individually labeled with the C-terminus specific Dsh antibody. These aggregates were resistant to detergent extraction and treatment with drugs that disrupt actin filaments or inhibit myosin II contraction, and coexisted with the first cleavage actomyosin contractile ring. These results confirm and extend previous studies and reveal, for the first time in any cell type, the nanoscale organization of plasma membrane tethered Dsh. Our current working hypothesis is that these Dsh pedestals represent a prepositioned scaffold organization that is important for the localized activation of the cWnt pathway at the sea urchin vegetal pole. These observations in sea urchins may also be relevant to the submembranous Dsh puncta present in other eggs and embryos.


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Open access publication of this article was made possible with grant support from Waidner-Spahr Library distributed through the Dickinson College Research & Development Committee.



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