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Developmental biology is fundamentally concerned with the processes by which the single cell of the fertilized egg gives rise during embryogenesis to the organized distribution of the hundreds of cell types in the adult organism. The specification and separation of the primary germ layers (ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm) are early and essential steps in the development of the vertebrate embryo. A well-supported model has emerged that emphasizes the requirement for inductive interactions in the formation of both mesoderm and endoderm. It has been widely assumed that specification of the vertebrate ectoderm occurs essentially by default in the absence of both mesoderm and endoderm induction; our group and others have found, however, that the differentiation of the ectoderm requires the active suppression of mesodermal and endodermal fate. Recent studies from our lab demonstrate that transcriptional repression by the T-box DNA-binding protein Tbx2 limits the response of presumptive ectodermal cells to mesoderm- and endoderm-promoting cues in embryos of the frog Xenopus laevis. Current projects aim to establish the gene regulatory and signaling mechanisms through which Tbx2 suppresses inappropriate germ layer formation, and thus restricts embryonic cell pluripotency, in viv