Anterior endomesoderm specification in Xenopus by Wnt/beta-catenin and TGF-beta signalling pathways

Dev Biol. 1999 May 15;209(2):282-97. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1999.9257.


In Xenopus, XHex and cerberus are early marker genes of the anterior endomesoderm (AE), a subset of endoderm cells fated to form the liver and foregut and implicated in head induction. Using XHex and cerberus as markers we have examined the signals underlying AE induction. We show that the AE is specified by the early blastula in the absence of mesodermal signals but that cell-cell contact between presumptive AE cells is required. In overexpression experiments maternal Wnt/beta-catenin and TGF-beta signals (Vg1, Xnr1-2) can induce ectopic XHex and cerberus. Inhibiting these pathways with dominant interfering signalling components blocks endogenous XHex and cerberus expression. We assess the role of signals from the organiser and show that the BMP antagonists noggin and chordin are important for maintaining XHex and cerberus expression. Finally, ventral injection of XHex mRNA can induce ectopic cerberus. Our results indicate that endodermal and mesodermal patterning are closely coordinated and that the AE is likely to be specified by the combined action of dorsal Wnt/beta-catenin signals and endoderm-specific factors mediated by TGF-beta signalling. These results provide a starting point for understanding the molecular events underlying the progressive determination of endodermally derived organs, such as the liver and foregut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Blastocyst / metabolism
  • Blastocyst / ultrastructure
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cell Communication
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / ultrastructure
  • Embryonic Development
  • Embryonic Induction
  • Endoderm / physiology*
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins*
  • Lymphokines / physiology
  • Mesoderm / physiology*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Proteins / physiology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Trans-Activators*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Xenopus Proteins
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology*
  • Xenopus laevis / genetics
  • beta Catenin


  • Biomarkers
  • CTNNB1 protein, Xenopus
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Glycoproteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Lymphokines
  • Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Xenopus Proteins
  • beta Catenin
  • cer1 protein, Xenopus
  • hhex protein, Xenopus
  • noggin protein
  • chordin