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Mol Cell. 2001 Mar;7(3):475-85.

Restriction of mesendoderm to a single blastomere by the combined action of SKN-1 and a GSK-3beta homolog is mediated by MED-1 and -2 in C. elegans.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106, USA.


The endoderm and much of the mesoderm arise from the EMS cell in the four-cell C. elegans embryo. We report that the MED-1 and -2 GATA factors specify the entire fate of EMS, which otherwise produces two C-like mesectodermal progenitors. The meds are direct targets of the maternal SKN-1 transcription factor; however, their forced expression can direct SKN-1-independent reprogramming of non-EMS cells into mesendodermal progenitors. We find that SGG-1/GSK-3beta kinase acts both as a Wnt-dependent activator of endoderm in EMS and an apparently Wnt-independent repressor of the meds in the C lineage, indicating a dual role for this kinase in mesendoderm development. Our results suggest that a broad tissue territory, mesendoderm, in vertebrates has been confined to a single cell in nematodes through a common gene regulatory network.

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