Navigation Links
USC researchers identify alternate pathway that leads to palate development

(Los Angeles CA) Researchers at the University Of Southern California School Of Dentistry have uncovered another clue behind the causes of cleft palate and the process that leads to palate formation.

Cleft palate is one of the most common congenital birth defects, occurring in one out of every 700 live births. Clefts are more common in children of American Indian, Hispanic or Asian descent. While males are twice as likely to have a cleft lip, females are twice as likely to have a cleft palate.

But genes are not the only factor influencing the malformation says, Yang Chai, professor and director of the USC School of Dentistry's Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology.

Researchers around the world believe that most cases of cleft lip and cleft palate are caused by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors; however, a specific cause may not be discovered for every baby.

Growth factors responsible for development, including palate and tooth formation, have more than one way to direct cells to make changes, says Chai.

The Discovery by the USC team is spotlighted in the August 12 issue of Development Cell.

Chai's group, which includes fellow CCMB researchers Xun Xu, Jun Han, Yoshihiro Ito and Pablo Bringas Jr., has been specifically scrutinizing the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-) family's role in palate formation problems.

The TGF- s are not only involved in palate formation, they plays an important development role all over the body. They work by binding to cell surface receptors and activating signaling molecules within the cell. These signaling molecules then travel to the nucleus, the cell's control center, and prompt DNA expression in order to spur changes in the cell.

"For instance, we've learned that when someone has a haploid insufficiency and is missing one copy of the TGF- gene, he or she is more vulnerable to environmental insults that can cause cleft palate, such as drugs, smoking and alcohol," Chai says.

Smad4 is one of the main signaling molecules used in the TGF- pathway during palate and tooth development. Chai says his team had initially hypothesized that since irregularities in the TGF- gene or its cell surface receptors sparked palate malformation in experimental mouse models, knocking out the Smad4 genes would do the same.

"We found that if we blocked TGF- or the receptors, a cleft palate develops," he says, "But when Smad4 was blocked, normal palate epithelium still covered the palatal shelf.

The team found that p38 MAPK (mitogen activated protein kinase) can take Smad4's place in the pathway and signal DNA expression to form the palate. Normally serving as a stress-response protein and activated by environmental insults, such as ultraviolet radiation on skin cells, p38 MAPK appears to act as a "spare tire" when Smad4 function is compromised, Chai says. When either one or the other is inactivated, the palate epithelium will still form properly, failing to form only if both signaling molecules are knocked out.

P38 MAPK isn't a perfect replacement for Smad4 during oral development when Smad4 is nonfunctional, teeth only partially form but the results are still surprising for a molecule better known for its roles during cancer, Chai says.

Further study could have big implications not only on congenital oral birth defects like cleft palate but also on malformations and diseases in tissues throughout the body, and patients could one day be able to take advantage of new genetic counseling and treatment methods stemming from this information, he hopes.

For new parents this latest development offers hope for the future. Those individuals with a family risk of either cleft lip or cleft palate can seek counseling early on and identify craniofacial teams that will assist them in following the best treatment plans for their child.

In addition, the discovery opens up other opportunities for researchers and clinicians.

"This information is useful not just for palate and teeth but also for cancer and cell biology in general," he says. "Ultimately, we have to be translational in order to make ourselves useful to patients."


Contact: Angelica Urquijo
University of Southern California

Related biology news :

1. Researchers block damage to fetal brain following maternal alcohol consumption
2. In scientific first, Einstein researchers correct decline in organ function associated with old age
3. Researchers find cancer-inhibiting compound under the sea
4. UT Health Science Center researchers study diet and autism
5. UGA researchers win $9.2 million stem cell grant from NIH
6. Broad Institute researchers introduce next generation tool for visualizing genomic data
7. Spanish researchers discover significant leatherback turtle nesting beaches in the Caribbean
8. ORNL researchers analyze material with colossal ionic conductivity
9. UNH researchers tag first-ever free-swimming leatherback turtles in New England
10. FSU, Magnet Lab researchers license critical petroleum data
11. Caltech researchers find dual-use sexual attraction and population-control chemicals in nematodes
Post Your Comments:
(Date:5/16/2016)... , May 16, 2016   EyeLock LLC ... today announced the opening of an IoT Center of ... strengthen and expand the development of embedded iris biometric ... unprecedented level of convenience and security with unmatched biometric ... one,s identity aside from DNA. EyeLock,s platform uses video ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... 2016 Elevay is currently known ... freedom for high net worth professionals seeking travel for ... connected world, there is still no substitute for a ... sealing your deal with a firm handshake. This is ... advantage of citizenship via investment programs like those offered ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... FRANCISCO and BANGALORE, India , ... of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: ... provider, today announced a global partnership that will ... way to use mobile banking and payment services. ... is a key innovation area for financial services, but it ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 27, 2016  Alex,s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), a ... will open a state-of-the-art bioinformatics lab, using ,big data, ... announcement comes as Liz Scott , co-executive director ... Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C. , ... participant and advocate of pediatric cancer research and awareness. ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... June 27, 2016  Global demand for enzymes ... through 2020 to $7.2 billion.  This market includes ... cleaning products, biofuel production, animal feed, and other ... and biocatalysts). Food and beverages will remain the ... increasing consumption of products containing enzymes in developing ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... GUELPH, ON , June 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - BIOREM ... it has been advised by its major shareholders, Clean ... LP, United States based venture ... common shares of Biorem (on a fully diluted, as ... for the disposition of their entire equity holdings in ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... 2016  Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM ), ... through the development of innovative products and services, announced ... United States denied its petition to review ... Sequenom,s U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540 (",540 Patent") are not ... the Supreme Court,s Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories ...
Breaking Biology Technology: