The contribution of specific cell subpopulations to submandibular salivary gland branching morphogenesis.
During embryonic development, many organs form by extensive branching of epithelia through the formation of clefts and buds. In cleft formation, buds are delineated by the conversion of epithelial cell-cell adhesions to cell-matrix adhesions, but the mechanisms of cleft formation are not clear. We have identified Btbd7 as a dynamic regulator of branching morphogenesis. Btbd7 provides a mechanistic link between the extracellular matrix and cleft propagation through its highly focal expression leading to local regulation of Snail2 (Slug), E-cadherin, and epithelial cell motility. Inhibition experiments show that Btbd7 is required for branching of embryonic mammalian salivary glands and lungs. Hence, Btbd7 is a regulatory gene that promotes epithelial tissue remodeling and formation of branched organs.