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Int J Dev Biol. 2006;50(7):611-7.

The zic1 gene is an activator of Wnt signaling.

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  • 1Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA.


The zic1 gene plays an important role in early patterning of the Xenopus neurectoderm. While Zic1 does not act as a neural inducer, it synergizes with the neural inducing factor Noggin to activate expression of posterior neural genes, including the midbrain/hindbrain boundary marker engrailed-2. Since the Drosophila homologue of zic1, odd-paired (opa), regulates expression of the wingless and engrailed genes and since Wnt proteins posteriorize neural tissue in Xenopus, we asked whether Xenopus Zic1 acted through the Wnt pathway. Using Wnt signaling inhibitors, we demonstrate that an active Wnt pathway is required for activation of en-2 expression by zic1. Consistent with this result, Zic1 induces expression of several wnt genes, including wnt1, wnt4 and wnt8b. wnt1 gene expression activates expression of engrailed in various organisms, including Xenopus, as demonstrated here. Together, our data suggest that zic1 is an upstream regulator of several wnt genes and that the regulatory relationships between opa, wingless and engrailed seen in Drosophila are also present in vertebrates.

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