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Curr Biol July 1, 1999; 9 (15): 800-9.

Spatially distinct head and heart inducers within the Xenopus organizer region.

Schneider VA , Mercola M .

BACKGROUND: The mouse anterior visceral endoderm, an extraembryonic tissue, expresses several genes essential for normal development of structures rostral to the anterior limit of the notochord and has been termed the head organizer. This tissue also has heart-inducing activity and expresses mCer1 which, like its Xenopus homolog cerberus, can induce markers of cardiac specification and anterior neural tissue when ectopically expressed. We investigated the relationship between head and heart induction in Xenopus embryos, which lack extraembryonic tissues. RESULTS: We found three regions of gene expression in the Xenopus organizer: deep endoderm, which expressed cerberus; prechordal mesoderm, which showed overlapping but non-identical expression of genes characteristic of the murine head organizer, such as XHex and XANF-1; and leading-edge dorsoanterior endoderm, which expressed both cerberus and a subset of the genes expressed by the prechordal mesoderm. Microsurgical ablation of the cerberus-expressing endoderm decreased the incidence of heart, but not head, formation. Removal of prechordal mesoderm, in contrast, caused deficits of anterior head structures. Finally, although misexpression of cerberus induced ectopic heads, it was unable to induce genes thought to participate in head induction. CONCLUSIONS: In Xenopus, the cerberus-expressing endoderm is required for heart, but not head, inducing activity. Therefore, this tissue is not the topological equivalent of the murine anterior visceral endoderm. We propose that, in Xenopus, cerberus is redundant to other bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Wnt antagonists located in prechordal mesoderm for head induction, but may be necessary for heart induction.

PubMed ID: 10469564
Article link: Curr Biol
Grant support: [+]
Genes referenced: cer1 hesx1 hhex

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