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Nature. 2001 May 17;411(6835):325-30.

The status of Wnt signalling regulates neural and epidermal fates in the chick embryo.

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Department of Microbiology, Umeå University, S-901 87 Umeå, Sweden.


The acquisition of neural fate by embryonic ectodermal cells is a fundamental step in the formation of the vertebrate nervous system. Neural induction seems to involve signalling by fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) and attenuation of the activity of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). But FGFs, either alone or in combination with BMP antagonists, are not sufficient to induce neural fate in prospective epidermal ectoderm of amniote embryos. These findings suggest that additional signals are involved in the specification of neural fate. Here we show that the state of Wnt signalling is a critical determinant of neural and epidermal fates in the chick embryo. Continual Wnt signalling blocks the response of epiblast cells to FGF signals, permitting the expression and signalling of BMP to direct an epidermal fate. Conversely, a lack of exposure of epiblast cells to Wnt signals permits FGFs to induce a neural fate.

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