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Development. 2002 Dec;129(24):5743-52.

Beta-catenin/Tcf-regulated transcription prior to the midblastula transition.

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Department of Medicine (Hematology-Oncology) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Following fertilization, the zygotic genome in many organisms is quiescent until the midblastula transition (MBT), when large-scale transcription begins. In Xenopus embryos, for example, transcription is believed to be repressed until the twelfth cell division. Thus, although dorsal-ventral patterning begins during the first cell cycle, little attention has been given to transcriptional regulation in pre-MBT development. We present evidence that regulated transcription begins during early cleavage stages and that the beta-catenin-Tcf complex is required for the transcription of the Xenopus nodal genes Xnr5 and Xnr6 as early as the 256-cell stage. Moreover, inhibition of beta-catenin/Tcf function can block dorsal development, but only if the inhibition begins early and is maintained throughout pre-MBT stages. Dorsal development can be rescued in ventralized embryos if Tcf-dependent transcription is activated prior to MBT, but activation of Tcf after MBT cannot rescue ventralized embryos, suggesting that beta-catenin/Tcf-dependent transcription is required prior to MBT for dorsal-ventral patterning in Xenopus.

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