RING1 proteins contribute to early proximal-distal specification of the forelimb bud by restricting Meis2 expression
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins play a pivotal role in silencing developmental genes and help to maintain various stem and precursor cells and regulate their differentiation. PcG factors also regulate dynamic and complex regional specification, particularly in mammals, but this activity is mechanistically not well understood. In this study, we focused on proximal-distal (PD) patterning of the mouse forelimb bud to elucidate how PcG factors contribute to a regional specification process that depends on developmental signals. Depletion of the RING1 proteins RING1A (RING1) and RING1B (RNF2), which are essential components of Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1), led to severe defects in forelimb formation along the PD axis. We show that preferential defects in early distal specification in Ring1A/B-deficient forelimb buds accompany failures in the repression of proximal signal circuitry bound by RING1B, including Meis1/2, and the activation of distal signal circuitry in the prospective distal region. Additional deletion of Meis2 induced partial restoration of the distal gene expression and limb formation seen in the Ring1A/B-deficient mice, suggesting a crucial role for RING1-dependent repression of Meis2 and likely also Meis1 for distal specification. We suggest that the RING1-MEIS1/2 axis is regulated by early PD signals and contributes to the initiation or maintenance of the distal signal circuitry.