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Dev Biol. 2011 Jan 15;349(2):261-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.11.012. Epub 2010 Nov 16.

Ectodermal Wnt/β-catenin signaling shapes the mouse face.

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Department of Craniofacial Biology and Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Denver, 12801 East 17th Avenue, PO Box 6511, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


The canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway is an essential component of multiple developmental processes. To investigate the role of this pathway in the ectoderm during facial morphogenesis, we generated conditional β-catenin mouse mutants using a novel ectoderm-specific Cre recombinase transgenic line. Our results demonstrate that ablating or stabilizing β-catenin in the embryonic ectoderm causes dramatic changes in facial morphology. There are accompanying alterations in the expression of Fgf8 and Shh, key molecules that establish a signaling center critical for facial patterning, the frontonasal ectodermal zone (FEZ). These data indicate that Wnt/β-catenin signaling within the ectoderm is critical for facial development and further suggest that this pathway is an important mechanism for generating the diverse facial shapes of vertebrates during evolution.

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