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Development. 2005 Dec;132(24):5425-36. Epub 2005 Nov 16.

Wnt3a links left-right determination with segmentation and anteroposterior axis elongation.

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Cancer and Developmental Biology Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, NIH Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


The alignment of the left-right (LR) body axis relative to the anteroposterior (AP) and dorsoventral (DV) axes is central to the organization of the vertebrate body plan and is controlled by the node/organizer. Somitogenesis plays a key role in embryo morphogenesis as a principal component of AP elongation. How morphogenesis is coupled to axis specification is not well understood. We demonstrate that Wnt3a is required for LR asymmetry. Wnt3a activates the Delta/Notch pathway to regulate perinodal expression of the left determinant Nodal, while simultaneously controlling the segmentation clock and the molecular oscillations of the Wnt/beta-catenin and Notch pathways. We provide evidence that Wnt3a, expressed in the primitive streak and dorsal posterior node, acts as a long-range signaling molecule, directly regulating target gene expression throughout the node and presomitic mesoderm. Wnt3a may also modulate the symmetry-breaking activity of mechanosensory cilia in the node. Thus, Wnt3a links the segmentation clock and AP axis elongation with key left-determining events, suggesting that Wnt3a is an integral component of the trunk organizer.

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