Specification of anteroposterior axis by combinatorial signaling during Xenopus development.
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The specification of anteroposterior (AP) axis is a fundamental and complex patterning process that sets up the embryonic polarity and shapes a multicellular organism. This process involves the integration of distinct signaling pathways to coordinate temporal-spatial gene expression and morphogenetic movements. In the frog Xenopus, extensive embryological and molecular studies have provided major advance in understanding the mechanism implicated in AP patterning. Following fertilization, cortical rotation leads to the transport of maternal determinants to the dorsal region and creates the primary dorsoventral (DV) asymmetry. The activation of maternal Wnt/ß-catenin signaling and a high Nodal signal induces the formation of the Nieuwkoop center in the dorsal-vegetal cells, which then triggers the formation of the Spemann organizer in the overlying dorsal marginal zone. It is now well established that the Spemann organizer plays a central role in building the vertebrate body axes because it provides patterning information for both DV and AP polarities. The antagonistic interactions between signals secreted in the Spemann organizer and the opposite ventral region pattern the mesoderm along the DV axis, and this DV information is translated into AP positional values during gastrulation. The formation of anterior neural tissue requires simultaneous inhibition of zygotic Wnt and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signals, while an endogenous gradient of Wnt, fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), retinoic acid (RA) signaling, and collinearly expressed Hox genes patterns the trunk and posterior regions. Collectively, DV asymmetry is mostly coupled to AP polarity, and cell-cell interactions mediated essentially by the same regulatory networks operate in DV and AP patterning. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

MeSH terms

Body Patterning
Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
Neural Crest
Wnt Signaling Pathway


Carron, Clémence
Shi, De-Li

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