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Development. 2002 Apr;129(7):1729-38.

Early embryonic expression of FGF4/6/9 gene and its role in the induction of mesenchyme and notochord in Ciona savignyi embryos.

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Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


In early Ciona savignyi embryos, nuclear localization of beta-catenin is the first step of endodermal cell specification, and triggers the activation of various target genes. A cDNA for Cs-FGF4/6/9, a gene activated downstream of beta-catenin signaling, was isolated and shown to encode an FGF protein with features of both FGF4/6 and FGF9/20. The early embryonic expression of Cs-FGF4/6/9 was transient and the transcript was seen in endodermal cells at the 16- and 32-cell stages, in notochord and muscle cells at the 64-cell stage, and in nerve cord and muscle cells at the 110-cell stage; the gene was then expressed again in cells of the nervous system after neurulation. When the gene function was suppressed with a specific antisense morpholino oligo, the differentiation of mesenchyme cells was completely blocked, and the fate of presumptive mesenchyme cells appeared to change into that of muscle cells. The inhibition of mesenchyme differentiation was abrogated by coinjection of the morpholino oligo and synthetic Cs-FGF4/6/9 mRNA. Downregulation of beta-catenin nuclear localization resulted in the absence of mesenchyme cell differentiation due to failure of the formation of signal-producing endodermal cells. Injection of synthetic Cs-FGF4/6/9 mRNA in beta-catenin-downregulated embryos evoked mesenchyme cell differentiation. These results strongly suggest that Cs-FGF4/6/9 produced by endodermal cells acts an inductive signal for the differentiation of mesenchyme cells. On the other hand, the role of Cs-FGF4/6/9 in the induction of notochord cells is partial; the initial process of the induction was inhibited by Cs-FGF4/6/9 morpholino oligo, but notochord-specific genes were expressed later to form a partial notochord.

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