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During development, the growth of the embryo must be coupled to its patterning to ensure correct and timely morphogenesis. In the mouse embryo, migration of the anterior visceral endoderm (AVE) to the prospective anterior establishes the anterior-posterior (A-P) axis. By analysing the distribution of cells in S phase, M phase and G2 from the time just prior to the migration of the AVE until 18 hours after its movement, we show that there is no evidence for differential proliferation along the A-P axis of the mouse embryo. Rather, we have identified that as AVE movements are being initiated, the epiblast proliferates at a much higher rate than the visceral endoderm. We show that these high levels of proliferation in the epiblast are dependent on Nodal signalling and are required for A-P establishment, as blocking cell division in the epiblast inhibits AVE migration. Interestingly, inhibition of migration by blocking proliferation can be rescued by Dkk1. This suggests that the high levels of epiblast proliferation function to move the prospective AVE away from signals that are inhibitory to its migration. The finding that initiation of AVE movements requires a certain level of proliferation in the epiblast provides a mechanism whereby A-P axis development is coordinated with embryonic growth.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1521 - 1530


Animals, Cell Cycle, Cell Movement, Cell Proliferation, Embryo, Mammalian, Endoderm, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Immunohistochemistry, In Situ Hybridization, Mice, Viscera