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Science. 2005 Apr 22;308(5721):563-6. Epub 2005 Feb 24.

Retinoic acid controls the bilateral symmetry of somite formation in the mouse embryo.

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  • 1Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/ULP/Collège de France, BP 10142, 67404 Illkirch Cedex, Strasbourg, France.


A striking characteristic of vertebrate embryos is their bilaterally symmetric body plan, which is particularly obvious at the level of the somites and their derivatives such as the vertebral column. Segmentation of the presomitic mesoderm must therefore be tightly coordinated along the left and right embryonic sides. We show that mutant mice defective for retinoic acid synthesis exhibit delayed somite formation on the right side. Asymmetric somite formation correlates with a left-right desynchronization of the segmentation clock oscillations. These data implicate retinoic acid as an endogenous signal that maintains the bilateral synchrony of mesoderm segmentation, and therefore controls bilateral symmetry, in vertebrate embryos.

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