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Zoolog Sci. 1995 Oct;12(5):509-21.

Control of the embryonic body plan by activin during amphibian development.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Tokyo, Japan.


Embryonic induction plays an important role in establishing the fundamental body plan during early amphibian development. The factors mediating this embryonic induction have, however, only recently been discovered. In the mid-1980's, certain peptide growth factors belonging to the FGF and TGF-beta families were found to have a mesoderm-inducing effect on isolated Xenopus blastula ectoderm. The study of embryonic induction subsequently expanded rapidly and knowledge at the molecular level has gradually accumulated. One of these peptide growth factors, activin, a member of the TGF-beta superfamily, is present maternally in the Xenopus early embryo and induces various mesodermal and endodermal tissues in isolated presumptive ectoderm. After exposure of presumptive ectoderm to activin, many genes are expressed in the same manner as in normal embryogenesis. Ectoderm treated with activin can induce a complete secondary embryo, the same as the organizer does in transplantation experiments. These findings suggest that activin is one of the first induction signals responsible for establishing the embryonic body plan in early amphibian development. In this article we shall review to what extent we can control the embryonic body plan in vitro, referring to some significant findings in this field.

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