Zanardelli S, Christodoulou N, Skourides PA

Dev Biol. 2013 Dec 1;384(1):83-100

Calpains are a family of calcium-dependent intracellular cysteine proteases that regulate several physiological processes by limited cleavage of different substrates. The role of Calpain2 in embryogenesis is not clear with conflicting evidence from a number of mouse knockouts. Here we report the temporal and spatial expression of Calpain2 in Xenopus laevis embryos and address its role in Xenopus development. We show that Calpain2 is expressed maternally with elevated expression in neural tissues and that Calpain2 activity is spatially and temporally regulated. Using a Calpain inhibitor, a dominant negative and a morpholino oligonoucleotide we demonstrate that impaired Calpain2 activity results in defective convergent extension both in mesodermal and neural tissues. Specifically, Calpain2 downregulation results in loss of tissue polarity and blockage of mediolateral intercalation in Keller explants without affecting adherens junction turnover. We further show that Calpain2 is activated in response to Wnt5a and that the inhibitory effect of Wnt5a expression on animal cap elongation can be rescued by blocking Calpain2 function. This suggests that Calpain2 activity needs to be tightly regulated during convergent extension. Finally we show that expression of Xdd1 blocks the membrane translocation of Calpain2 suggesting that Calpain2 activation is downstream of Dishevelled. Overall our data show that Calpain2 activation through the Wnt/Ca(2+) pathway and Dishevelled can modulate convergent extension movements.