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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Apr 5;102(14):4943-8. Epub 2005 Mar 28.

Xenopus as a model system to study transcriptional regulatory networks.

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Developmental Biology Center and the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-2300, USA.


Development is controlled by a complex series of events requiring sequential gene activation. Understanding the logic of gene networks during development is necessary for a complete understanding of how genes contribute to phenotype. Pioneering work initiated in the sea urchin and Drosophila has demonstrated that reasonable transcriptional regulatory network diagrams representing early development in multicellular animals can be generated through use of appropriate genomic, genetic, and biochemical tools. Establishment of similar regulatory network diagrams for vertebrate development is a necessary step. The amphibian Xenopus has long been used as a model for vertebrate early development and has contributed greatly to the elucidation of gene regulation. Because the best and most extensively studied transcriptional regulatory network in Xenopus is that underlying the formation and function of Spemann's organizer, we describe the current status of our understanding of this gene regulatory network and its relationship to mesodermal patterning. Seventy-four transcription factors currently known to be expressed in the mesoendoderm of Xenopus gastrula were characterized according to their modes of action, DNA binding consensus sequences, and target genes. Among them, nineteen transcription factors were characterized sufficiently in detail, allowing us to generate a gene regulatory network diagram. Additionally, we discuss recent amphibian work using a combined DNA microarray and bioinformatics approach that promises to accelerate regulatory network studies.

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