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Dev Biol. 2005 Sep 1;285(1):1-10.

The activin signaling pathway promotes differentiation of dI3 interneurons in the spinal neural tube.

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Developmental Biology Program, Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The generation of the appropriate types and numbers of mature neurons during the development of the spinal cord requires the careful coordination of patterning, proliferation, and differentiation. In the dorsal neural tube, this coordination is achieved by the combined action of multiple ligands of both the Wnt and TGF-beta families, and their effectors, such as the bHLH proteins. TGF-beta signaling acting through the BMP receptors is necessary for the generation of several dorsal interneuron types. Other TGF-beta ligands expressed in the dorsal neural tube interact with the Activin receptors, which signal via a different set of SMAD proteins than BMPs. The effects of Activin signaling on the developing neural tube have not been described. Here we have activated the Activin signal transduction pathway in a cell-autonomous manner in the developing chick neural tube. We find that a constitutively active Activin receptor promotes differentiation throughout the neural tube. Although most differentiated cell populations are unaffected by Activin signaling, the number of dorsal interneuron 3 (dI3) cells is specifically increased. Our data suggest that Activin signaling may promote the formation of the dI3 precursor cells within a region circumscribed by BMP signaling and that this function is not dependent upon BMP signaling.

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