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Development. 1998 Aug;125(15):2867-82.

Opl: a zinc finger protein that regulates neural determination and patterning in Xenopus.

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  • 1Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nine Cambridge Center, Cambridge MA 02142, USA.


In order to study the mechanism of neural patterning in Xenopus, we used subtractive cloning to isolate genes activated early during this process. One gene isolated was opl, (odd-paired-like) that resembles the Drosophila pair-rule gene odd-paired and encodes a zinc finger protein that is a member of the Zic gene family. At the onset of gastrulation, opl is expressed throughout the presumptive neural plate, indicating that neural determination has begun at this stage while, by neurula, opl expression is restricted to the dorsal neural tube and neural crest. opl encodes a transcriptional activator, with a carboxy terminal regulatory domain, which when removed increases opl activity. opl both sensitizes animal cap ectoderm to the neural inducer noggin and alters the spectrum of genes induced by noggin, allowing activation of the midbrain marker engrailed. Consistent with the later dorsal neural expression of opl, the activated form of opl is able to induce neural crest and dorsal neural tube markers both in animal caps and whole embryos. In ventral ectoderm, opl induces formation of loose cell aggregates that may indicate neural crest precursor cells. Aggregates do not express an epidermal marker, indicating that opl suppresses ventral fates. Together, these data suggest that opl may mediate neural competence and may be involved in activation of midbrain, dorsal neural and neural crest fates.

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