Responses of embryonic Xenopus cells to activin and FGF are separated by multiple dose thresholds and correspond to distinct axes of the mesoderm

Cell. 1992 Nov 27;71(5):731-9. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(92)90550-v.


The potent mesoderm-inducing factors activin and FGF are present as maternally synthesized proteins in embryos of X. laevis. We show that activin can act on explanted blastomeres to induce at least five different cell states ranging from posterolateral mesoderm to dorsoanterior organizer mesoderm. Each state is induced in a narrow dose range bounded by sharp thresholds. By contrast, FGF induces only posterolateral markers and does so over relatively broad dose ranges. FGF can modulate the actions of activin, potentiating them and broadening the threshold-bounded dose windows. Our results indicate that orthogonal gradients of activin and FGF would be sufficient to specify the main elements of the body plan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activins
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Embryonic Induction
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Inhibins / physiology*
  • Mesoderm / physiology*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Muscles / embryology
  • Notochord / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Activins
  • Inhibins
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors