Transcriptional landscape of the embryonic chicken Müllerian duct

Zahida Yesmin Roly, Rasoul Godini, Martin A. Estermann, Andrew T. Major, Roger Pocock, Craig A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Müllerian ducts are paired embryonic tubes that give rise to the female reproductive tract in vertebrates. Many disorders of female reproduction can be attributed to anomalies of Müllerian duct development. However, the molecular genetics of Müllerian duct formation is poorly understood and most disorders of duct development have unknown etiology. In this study, we describe for the first time the transcriptional landscape of the embryonic Müllerian duct, using the chicken embryo as a model system. RNA sequencing was conducted at 1 day intervals during duct formation to identify developmentally-regulated genes, validated by in situ hybridization. Results: This analysis detected hundreds of genes specifically up-regulated during duct morphogenesis. Gene ontology and pathway analysis revealed enrichment for developmental pathways associated with cell adhesion, cell migration and proliferation, ERK and WNT signaling, and, interestingly, axonal guidance. The latter included factors linked to neuronal cell migration or axonal outgrowth, such as Ephrin B2, netrin receptor, SLIT1 and class A semaphorins. A number of transcriptional modules were identified that centred around key hub genes specifying matrix-Associated signaling factors; SPOCK1, HTRA3 and ADGRD1. Several novel regulators of the WNT and TFG-β signaling pathway were identified in Müllerian ducts, including APCDD1 and DKK1, BMP3 and TGFBI. A number of novel transcription factors were also identified, including OSR1, FOXE1, PRICKLE1, TSHZ3 and SMARCA2. In addition, over 100 long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) were expressed during duct formation. Conclusions: This study provides a rich resource of new candidate genes for Müllerian duct development and its disorders. It also sheds light on the molecular pathways engaged during tubulogenesis, a fundamental process in embryonic development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number688
Number of pages22
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020


  • Chicken embryo
  • FOXE1
  • Müllerian duct
  • OSR1
  • RNA-seq
  • Sex determination

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