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The amniote organizer (Hensen's node) can induce a complete nervous system when grafted into a peripheral region of a host embryo. Although BMP inhibition has been implicated in neural induction, non-neural cells cannot respond to BMP antagonists unless previously exposed to a node graft for at least 5 hours before BMP inhibitors. To define signals and responses during the first 5 hours of node signals, a differential screen was conducted. Here we describe three early response genes: two of them, Asterix and Obelix, encode previously undescribed proteins of unknown function but Obelix appears to be a nuclear RNA-binding protein. The third is TrkC, a neurotrophin receptor. All three genes are induced by a node graft within 4-5 hours but they differ in the extent to which they are inducible by FGF: FGF is both necessary and sufficient to induce Asterix, sufficient but not necessary to induce Obelix and neither sufficient nor necessary for induction of TrkC. These genes are also not induced by retinoic acid, Noggin, Chordin, Dkk1, Cerberus, HGF/SF, Somatostatin or ionomycin-mediated Calcium entry. Comparison of the expression and regulation of these genes with other early neural markers reveals three distinct "epochs", or temporal waves, of gene expression accompanying neural induction by a grafted organizer, which are mirrored by specific stages of normal neural plate development. The results are consistent with neural induction being a cascade of responses elicited by different signals, culminating in the formation of a patterned nervous system.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Animals, Chick Embryo, Embryonic Induction, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Gene Library, Models, Biological, Nervous System, Neural Plate, Organizers, Embryonic, Phylogeny, RNA-Binding Proteins, Receptor, trkC, Signal Transduction, Time Factors