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Development. 1995 Jul;121(7):2107-16.

The somatic-visceral subdivision of the embryonic mesoderm is initiated by dorsal gradient thresholds in Drosophila.

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Department of Biology, UCSD, La Jolla, CA 92093-0347, USA.


The maternal dorsal regulatory gradient initiates the differentiation of the mesoderm, neuroectoderm and dorsal ectoderm in the early Drosophila embryo. Two primary dorsal target genes, snail (sna) and decapentaplegic (dpp), define the limits of the presumptive mesoderm and dorsal ectoderm, respectively. Normally, the sna expression pattern encompasses 18-20 cells in ventral and ventrolateral regions. Here we show that narrowing the sna pattern results in fewer invaginated cells. As a result, the mesoderm fails to extend into lateral regions so that fewer cells come into contact with dpp-expressing regions of the dorsal ectoderm. This leads to a substantial reduction in visceral and cardiac tissues, consistent with recent studies suggesting that dpp induces lateral mesoderm. These results also suggest that the dorsal regulatory gradient defines the limits of inductive interactions between germ layers after gastrulation. We discuss the parallels between the subdivision of the mesoderm and dorsal ectoderm.

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