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Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 1997;13:611-67.

Formation and function of Spemann's organizer.

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1
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720, USA. harland@mendel.berkeley.edu

Abstract

The organizer is formed in an equatorial sector of the blastula stage amphibian embryo by cells that have responded to two maternal agents: a general mesoendoderm inducer (involving the TFG-beta signaling pathway) and a dorsal modifier (probably involving the Wnt signaling pathway). The meso-endoderm inducer is secreted by most vegetal cells, those containing maternal materials that had been localized in the vegetal hemisphere of the oocyte during oogenesis. As a consequence of the inducer's distribution and action, the competence domains of prospective ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm are established in an animal-to-vegetal order in the blastula. The dorsal modifier signal is secreted by a sector of cells of the animal and vegetal hemispheres on one side of the blastula. These cells contain maternal materials transported there in the first cell cycle from the vegetal pole of the egg along microtubules aligned by cortical rotation. The Nieuwkoop center is the region of blastula cells secreting both maternal signals, and hence specifying the organizer in an equatorial sector. Final steps of organizer formation at the late blastula or early gastrula stage may involve locally secreted zygotic signals as well. At the gastrula stage, the organizer secretes a variety of zygotic proteins that act as antagonists to various members of the BMP and Wnt families of ligands, which are secreted by cells of the competence domains surrounding the organizer. BMPs and Wnts favor ventral development, and cells near the organizer are protected from these agents by the organizer's inducers. The nearby cells are derepressed in their inherent capacity for dorsal development, which is apparent in the neural induction of the ectoderm, dorsalization of the mesoderm, and anteriorization of the endoderm. The organizer also engages in extensive specialized morphogenesis, which brings it within range of responsive cell groups. It also self-differentiates to a variety of axial tissues of the body.

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