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Dev Biol. 2004 Oct 15;274(2):334-47.

Coordinate regulation of neural tube patterning and proliferation by TGFbeta and WNT activity.

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Neuroscience Program, Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Pattern formation and growth must be tightly coupled during embryonic development. In vertebrates, however, little is known of the molecules that serve to link these two processes. Here we show that bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) coordinate the acquisition of pattern information and the stimulation of proliferation in the embryonic spinal neural tube. We have blocked BMP and transforming growth factor-beta superfamily (TGFbeta) function in the chick embryo using Noggin, a BMP antagonist, and siRNA against Smad4. We show that BMPs/TGFbetas are necessary to regulate pattern formation and the specification of neural progenitor populations in the dorsal neural tube. BMPs also serve to establish discrete expression domains of Wnt ligands, receptors, and antagonists along the dorsal-ventral axis of the neural tube. Using the extracellular domain of Frizzled 8 to block Wnt signaling and Wnt3a ligand misexpression to activate WNT signaling, we demonstrate that the Wnt pathway acts mitogenically to expand the populations of neuronal progenitor cells specified by BMP. Thus, BMPs, acting through WNTs, couple patterning and growth to generate dorsal neuronal fates in the appropriate proportions within the neural tube.

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