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Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 1999 Jul;45(5):505-16.

Vertebrate left-right asymmetry: old studies and new insights.

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  • 1Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Institute of Toxicology and Genetics, Germany.


During vertebrate embryonic development, the organs of the chest and abdomen, heart, lung and gastrointestinal tract, acquire characteristic asymmetric positions with respect to the left-right body axis. In the beginning of the 20th century Hans Spemann and his co-workers described manipulations of amphibian embryos which resulted in inversion of organ laterality in a predictable manner. Hedwig Wilhelmi concluded from these experiments that determinants on the left side of the embryo specify laterality, and Meyer postulated that a mediator should transfer this positional information to the forming heart. In this review we discuss the classical experiments in the light of recent advances in the molecular understanding of left-right development, with a focus on the mediator role of the homeobox gene Pitx2.

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