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Dev Cell. 2002 Feb;2(2):171-82.

Intrinsic differences between the superficial and deep layers of the Xenopus ectoderm control primary neuronal differentiation.

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Wellcome/CRC Institute, Tennis Court Road, CB2 1QR, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


In Xenopus, primary neurons differentiate early, in the deep layer of the neuroectoderm. In contrast, the neural precursors of the superficial layer continue to proliferate. We report that superficial layer precursors differ from deep layer precursors in that they are refractory to the neuronal-promoting activity of bHLH genes, dominant-negative X-Delta-1, FGF-8, or signals from the organizer. In this system, neuronal differentiation is guided by an early established, intrinsic, cell-autonomous difference in the competence of the precursor cells to differentiate. This difference may be controlled in part by ESR6e, a bHLH gene of the Enhancer-of-split family, which is expressed in the superficial layer of the late blastula and when expressed ectopically suppresses primary neurogenesis in the deep layer.

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