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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009 Nov;1(5):a003459. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a003459.

Nodal morphogens.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Center for Brain Science, Broad Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA. <>


Nodal signals belong to the TGF-beta superfamily and are essential for the induction of mesoderm and endoderm and the determination of the left-right axis. Nodal signals can act as morphogens-they have concentration-dependent effects and can act at a distance from their source of production. Nodal and its feedback inhibitor Lefty form an activator/inhibitor pair that behaves similarly to postulated reaction-diffusion models of tissue patterning. Nodal morphogen activity is also regulated by microRNAs, convertases, TGF-beta signals, coreceptors, and trafficking factors. This article describes how Nodal morphogens pattern embryonic fields and discusses how Nodal morphogen signaling is modulated.

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