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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The opposing homeobox genes Goosecoid and Vent1/2 self-regulate Xenopus patterning.

  • Author(s): Sander, Veronika
  • Reversade, Bruno
  • De Robertis, EM
  • et al.

We present a loss-of-function study using antisense morpholino (MO) reagents for the organizer-specific gene Goosecoid (Gsc) and the ventral genes Vent1 and Vent2. Unlike in the mouse Gsc is required in Xenopus for mesodermal patterning during gastrulation, causing phenotypes ranging from reduction of head structures-including cyclopia and holoprosencephaly-to expansion of ventral tissues in MO-injected embryos. The overexpression effects of Gsc mRNA require the expression of the BMP antagonist Chordin, a downstream target of Gsc. Combined Vent1 and Vent2 MOs strongly dorsalized the embryo. Unexpectedly, simultaneous depletion of all three genes led to a rescue of almost normal development in a variety of embryological assays. Thus, the phenotypic effects of depleting Gsc or Vent1/2 are caused by the transcriptional upregulation of their opposing counterparts. A principal function of Gsc and Vent1/2 homeobox genes might be to mediate a self-adjusting mechanism that restores the basic body plan when deviations from the norm occur, rather than generating individual cell types. The results may shed light on the molecular mechanisms of genetic redundancy.

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