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Curr Biol. 2002 Nov 19;12(22):1941-5.

Lef-1 and Tcf-3 transcription factors mediate tissue-specific Wnt signaling during Xenopus development.

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Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology (NIOB), Hubrecht Laboratorium, Uppsalalaan 8, 3584CT, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Wnt signaling functions repeatedly during embryonic development to induce different but specific responses. What molecular mechanisms ensure that Wnt signaling triggers the correct tissue-specific response in different tissues? Early Xenopus development is an ideal model for addressing this fundamental question, since there is a dramatic change in the response to Wnt signaling at the onset of zygotic gene transcription: Wnt signaling components encoded by maternal mRNA establish the dorsal embryonic axis; zygotically expressed Xwnt-8 causes almost the opposite, by promoting ventral and lateral and restricting dorsal mesodermal development. Although Wnt signaling can function through different signal transduction cascades, the same beta-catenin-dependent, canonical Wnt signal transduction pathway mediates Wnt signaling at both stages of Xenopus development. Here we show that, while the function of the transcription factor XTcf-3 is required for early Wnt signaling to establish the dorsal embryonic axis, closely related XLef-1 is required for Wnt signaling to pattern the mesoderm after the onset of zygotic transcription. Our results show for the first time that different transcription factors of the Lef/Tcf family function in different tissues to bring about tissue-specific responses downstream of canonical Wnt signaling.

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