Over the past decade, several molecules have been identified that influence neural cell fate in vertebrate embryos during gastrulation. The first neural inducers studied were proteins produced by dorsal mesoderm (the Spemann organizer); most of these proteins act by directly binding to and antagonizing the function of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). Recent experiments have suggested that other secreted signals, such as Wnt and FGF, may neuralize ectoderm before organizer function by a different mechanism. Neural effector genes that mediate the response of ectoderm to secreted neuralizing signals have also been discovered. Interestingly, most of these newly identified neuralizing pathways continue the theme of BMP antagonism, but rather than antagonizing BMP protein function, they may neuralize tissue by suppressing Bmp expression. Down-regulation of Bmp expression in the prospective neural plate during gastrulation seems to be a shared feature of neural induction in vertebrate embryos. However, the signals used to accomplish this task seem to vary among vertebrates. Here, we will discuss the role of the recently identified secreted signals and neural effector genes in vertebrate neurogenesis.
- Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)
- Neural effector genes
- Neural induction