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Development. 1994 Feb;120(2):453-62.

Activin-mediated mesoderm induction requires FGF.

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Department of Biochemistry SJ-70, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


The early patterning of mesoderm in the Xenopus embryo requires signals from several intercellular factors, including mesoderm-inducing agents that belong to the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and TGF-beta families. In animal hemisphere explants (animal caps), basic FGF and the TGF-beta family member activin are capable of converting pre-ectodermal cells to a mesodermal fate, although activin is much more effective at inducing dorsal and anterior mesoderm than is basic FGF. Using a dominant-negative form of the Xenopus type 1 FGF receptor, we show that an FGF signal is required for the full induction of mesoderm by activin. Animal caps isolated from embryos that have been injected with the truncated FGF receptor and cultured with activin do not extend and the induction of some genes, including cardiac actin and Xbra, is greatly diminished, while the induction of other genes, including the head organizer-specific genes gsc and Xlim-1, is less sensitive. These results are consistent with the phenotype of the truncated FGF receptor-injected embryo and imply that the activin induction of mesoderm depends on FGF, with some genes requiring a higher level of FGF signaling than others.

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