Lefty acts as an essential modulator of Nodal activity during sea urchin oral–aboral axis formation

UMR 7009 CNRS, Université de Paris VI, Observatoire Océanologique, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France.
Developmental Biology (Impact Factor: 3.64). 05/2008; 320(1):49-59. DOI: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.04.012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Nodal is a key player in the process regulating oral-aboral axis formation in the sea urchin embryo. Expressed early within an oral organizing centre, it is required to specify both the oral and aboral ectoderm territories by driving an oral-aboral gene regulatory network. A model for oral-aboral axis specification has been proposed relying on the self activation of Nodal and the diffusion of the long-range antagonist Lefty resulting in a sharp restriction of Nodal activity within the oral field. Here, we describe the expression pattern of lefty and analyse its function in the process of secondary axis formation. lefty expression starts at the 128-cell stage immediately after that of nodal, is rapidly restricted to the presumptive oral ectoderm then shifted toward the right side after gastrulation. Consistently with previous work, neither the oral nor the aboral ectoderm are specified in embryos in which Lefty is overexpressed. Conversely, when Lefty's function is blocked, most of the ectoderm is converted into oral ectoderm through ectopic expression of nodal. Reintroducing lefty mRNA in a restricted territory of Lefty depleted embryos caused a dose-dependent effect on nodal expression. Remarkably, injection of lefty mRNA into one blastomere at the 8-cell stage in Lefty depleted embryos blocked nodal expression in the whole ectoderm consistent with the highly diffusible character of Lefty in other models. Taken together, these results demonstrate that Lefty is essential for oral-aboral axis formation and suggest that Lefty acts as a long-range inhibitor of Nodal signalling in the sea urchin embryo.

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