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Genes Dev. 1999 Jun 15;13(12):1575-88.

Asymmetric and node-specific nodal expression patterns are controlled by two distinct cis-acting regulatory elements.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, The Biological Laboratories, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


The TGFbeta-related molecule Nodal is required for establishment of the anterior-posterior (A-P) and left-right (L-R) body axes of the vertebrate embryo. In mouse, several discrete sites of nodal activity closely correlate with its highly dynamic expression domains. nodal function in the posterior epiblast promotes primitive streak formation, whereas transient nodal expression in the extraembryonic visceral endoderm is essential for patterning the rostral central nervous system. Asymmetric nodal expression in the developing node and at later stages in left lateral plate mesoderm has been implicated as a key regulator of L-R axis determination. We have analyzed the cis-regulatory elements controlling nodal expression domains during early development. We show that the regulatory sequences conferring node-specific expression are contained in an upstream region of the locus, whereas early expression in the endoderm and epiblast and asymmetric expression at later stages on the left side of the body axis are controlled by a 600-bp intronic enhancer. Targeted deletion of a 100-bp subregion of this intronic enhancer eliminates nodal expression in the early epiblast and visceral endoderm and disrupts asymmetric expression in the node and lateral plate mesoderm. Thus, developmentally regulated nodal expression at distinct tissue sites during A-P and L-R axis formation is potentially controlled by common transcriptional activators.

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