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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 May 28;110(22):E2019-27. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1222115110. Epub 2013 May 13.

Dynamic CREB family activity drives segmentation and posterior polarity specification in mammalian somitogenesis.

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Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


The segmented body plan of vertebrates is prefigured by reiterated embryonic mesodermal structures called somites. In the mouse embryo, timely somite formation from the presomitic mesoderm (PSM) is controlled by the "segmentation clock," a molecular oscillator that triggers progressive waves of Notch activity throughout the PSM. Notch clock activity is suppressed in the posterior PSM by FGF signaling until it crosses a determination front at which its net activity is sufficiently high to effect segmentation. Here, Notch and Wnt signaling directs somite anterior/posterior (A/P) polarity specification and boundary formation via regulation of the segmentation effector gene Mesoderm posterior 2. How Notch and Wnt signaling becomes coordinated at this front is incompletely defined. Here we show that the activity of the cAMP responsive element binding protein (CREB) family of transcription factors exhibits Wnt3a-dependent oscillatory behavior near the determination front and is in unison with Notch activity. Inhibition of CREB family in the mesoderm causes defects in somite segmentation and a loss in somite posterior polarity leading to fusions of vertebrae and ribs. Among the CREB family downstream genes, several are known to be regulated by Wnt3a. Of those, we show that the CREB family occupies a conserved binding site in the promoter region of Delta-like 1, encoding a Notch ligand, in the anterior PSM as a mechanism to specify posterior identity of somites. Together, these data support that the CREB family acts at the determination front to modulate Wnt signaling and strengthen Notch signaling as a means to orchestrate cells for somite segmentation and anterior/posterior patterning.


A-CREB; CRE-site; P-CREB; clock and wavefront; somite polarity

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