In order to identify factors involved in posteriorization of the central nervous system, we undertook a functional screen in Xenopus animal cap explants which involved coinjecting noggin RNA together with pools of RNA from a chick somite cDNA library. In the course of this screen, we isolated a clone encoding a truncated form of beta-catenin, which induced posterior neural and dorsal mesodermal markers when coinjected with noggin in animal caps. Similar results were obtained with Xwnt-8 and Xwnt-3a, suggesting that these effects are a consequence of activating the canonical Wnt signalling pathway. To investigate whether the activation of posterior neural markers requires mesoderm induction, we performed experiments using a chimeric inducible form of beta-catenin. Activation of this protein during blastula stages resulted in the induction of both posterior neural and mesodermal markers, while activation during gastrula stages induced only posterior neural markers. We show that this posteriorizing activity occurs by an indirect and noncell-autonomous mechanism requiring FGF signalling.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.