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Development. 2000 Mar;127(5):1105-14.

A BMP pathway regulates cell fate allocation along the sea urchin animal-vegetal embryonic axis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA.


To examine whether a BMP signaling pathway functions in specification of cell fates in sea urchin embryos, we have cloned sea urchin BMP2/4, analyzed its expression in time and space in developing embryos and assayed the developmental consequences of changing its concentration through mRNA injection experiments. These studies show that BMP4 mRNAs accumulate transiently during blastula stages, beginning around the 200-cell stage, 14 hours postfertilization. Soon after the hatching blastula stage, BMP2/4 transcripts can be detected in presumptive ectoderm, where they are enriched on the oral side. Injection of BMP2/4 mRNA at the one-cell stage causes a dose-dependent suppression of commitment of cells to vegetal fates and ectoderm differentiates almost exclusively as a squamous epithelial tissue. In contrast, NOGGIN, an antagonist of BMP2/4, enhances differentiation of endoderm, a vegetal tissue, and promotes differentiation of cells characteristic of the ciliated band, which contains neurogenic ectoderm. These findings support a model in which the balance of BMP2/4 signals produced by animal cell progeny and opposing vegetalizing signals sent during cleavage stages regulate the position of the ectoderm/ endoderm boundary. In addition, BMP2/4 levels influence the decision within ectoderm between epidermal and nonepidermal differentiation.

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