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Mech Dev. 1998 Mar;72(1-2):115-30.

Anterior specification of embryonic ectoderm: the role of the Xenopus cement gland-specific gene XAG-2.

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Institute of Genetics, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, A-5020, Salzburg, Austria.


In a search for novel developmental genes expressed in a spatially restricted pattern in dorsal ectoderm of Xenopus we have identified XAG-2, a cement gland-specific gene with a putative role in ectodermal patterning. XAG-2 encodes a secreted protein, which is expressed in the anterior region of dorsal ectoderm from late gastrula stages onwards. Activation of XAG-2 transcription is observed in response to organizer-secreted molecules including the noggin, chordin, follistatin and cerberus gene products. Overexpression of XAG-2 but not of the related cement gland marker XAG-1 induces both cement gland differentiation and expression of anterior neural marker genes in the absence of mesoderm formation. Further, we show that XAG-2 signaling depends on an intact fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signal transduction pathway and that XAG-2-induced anterior neural fate of ectodermal cells can be transformed to a more posterior character by retinoic acid. Based on these findings we propose a role for XAG-2 in the specification of dorsoanterior ectodermal fate, i.e. in the formation of cement gland and induction of forebrain fate of Xenopus.

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