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Nature. 1994 Oct 6;371(6497):487-92.

Activin signalling and response to a morphogen gradient.

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Wellcome CRC Institute, Cambridge, UK.


Using combinations of amphibian embryo tissues, it is shown that the selection of genes expressed by a cell is determined by its distance from a source of activin, a peptide growth factor contained in vegetal cells and able to induce other cells to form mesoderm. This long-range signal spreads over at least 10 cell diameters in a few hours. It does so by passive diffusion, because it can by-pass cells that do not themselves respond to the signal nor synthesize protein. These results provide direct support for the operation of a morphogen concentration gradient in vertebrate development.

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