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Development. 2006 Jan;133(2):237-50. Epub 2005 Dec 8.

XCR2, one of three Xenopus EGF-CFC genes, has a distinct role in the regulation of left-right patterning.

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  • 1Department of Developmental Biology, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, 188 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Members of the EGF-CFC family facilitate signaling by a subset of TGFbeta superfamily ligands that includes the nodal-related factors and GDF1/VG1. Studies in mouse, zebrafish, and chick point to an essential role for EGF-CFC proteins in the action of nodal/GDF1 signals in the early establishment of the mesendoderm and later visceral left-right patterning. Antisense knockdown of the only known frog EGF-CFC factor (FRL1), however, has argued against an essential role for this factor in nodal/GDF1 signaling. To address this apparent paradox, we have identified two additional Xenopus EGF-CFC family members. The three Xenopus EGF-CFC factors show distinct patterns of expression. We have examined the role of XCR2, the only Xenopus EGF-CFC factor expressed in post-gastrula embryos, in embryogenesis. Antisense morpholino oligonucleotide-mediated depletion of XCR2 disrupts left-right asymmetry of the heart and gut. Although XCR2 is expressed bilaterally at neurula stage, XCR2 is required on the left side, but not the right side, for normal left-right patterning. Left-side expression of XNR1 in the lateral plate mesoderm depends on XCR2, whereas posterior bilateral expression of XNR1 does not, suggesting that distinct mechanisms maintain XNR1 expression in different regions of neurula-tailbud embryos. Ectopic XCR2 on the right side initiates premature right-side expression of XNR1 and XATV, and can reverse visceral patterning. This activity of XCR2 depends on its co-receptor function. These observations indicate that XCR2 has a crucial limiting role in maintaining a bistable asymmetry in nodal family signaling across the left-right axis.

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