The endoderm is one of the primary germ layers but, in comparison to ectoderm and mesoderm, has received less attention. The definitive endoderm forms during gastrulation and replaces the extraembryonic visceral endoderm. It participates in the complex morphogenesis of the gut tube and contributes to the associated visceral organs. This review highlights the role of the definitive endoderm as a source of patterning cues for the morphogenesis of other germ-layer tissues, such as the anterior neurectoderm and the pharyngeal region, and also emphasizes the intricate patterning that the endoderm itself undergoes enabling the acquisition of regionalized cell fates.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.