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Development. 2001 Nov;128(21):4189-201.

A morphogen gradient of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling regulates anteroposterior neural patterning in Xenopus.

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


Anteroposterior (AP) patterning of the vertebrate neural plate is initiated during gastrulation and is regulated by Spemann's organizer and its derivatives. The prevailing model for AP patterning predicts a caudally increasing gradient of a 'transformer' which posteriorizes anteriorly specified neural cells. However, the molecular identity of the transforming gradient has remained elusive. We show that in Xenopus embryos (1) dose-dependent Wnt signalling is both necessary and sufficient for AP patterning of the neuraxis, (2) Wnt/beta-catenin signalling occurs in a direct and long-range fashion within the ectoderm, and (3) that there is an endogenous AP gradient of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling in the presumptive neural plate of the Xenopus gastrula. Our results indicate that an activity gradient of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling acts as transforming morphogen to pattern the Xenopus central nervous system.

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