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Trends Genet. 1999 Aug;15(8):314-9.

Head in the WNT: the molecular nature of Spemann's head organizer.

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Division of Molecular Embryology, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Formation of the head during vertebrate embryogenesis has been one of the most-studied topics in development, probably because we are such cephalized beings ourselves. Early experimenters found that the head is induced during gastrulation by Spemann's organizer. In 1999 we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the organizer by Spemann and Mangold, a group of cells in amphibia that secretes powerful signalling molecules. Recently, advances have been made in identifying candidate head inducers. Not surprisingly, these inducers act in familiar molecular pathways, namely transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) and WNT signalling.

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