Nodal signalling is involved in left-right asymmetry in snails

Nature. 2009 Feb 19;457(7232):1007-11. doi: 10.1038/nature07603. Epub 2008 Dec 21.


Many animals display specific internal or external features with left-right asymmetry. In vertebrates, the molecular pathway that leads to this asymmetry uses the signalling molecule Nodal, a member of the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily, which is expressed in the left lateral plate mesoderm, and loss of nodal function produces a randomization of the left-right asymmetry of visceral organs. Orthologues of nodal have also been described in other deuterostomes, including ascidians and sea urchins, but no nodal orthologue has been reported in the other two main clades of Bilateria: Ecdysozoa (including flies and nematodes) and Lophotrochozoa (including snails and annelids). Here we report the first evidence for a nodal orthologue in a non-deuterostome group. We isolated nodal and Pitx (one of the targets of Nodal signalling) in two species of snails and found that the side of the embryo that expresses nodal and Pitx is related to body chirality: both genes are expressed on the right side of the embryo in the dextral (right-handed) species Lottia gigantea and on the left side in the sinistral (left-handed) species Biomphalaria glabrata. We pharmacologically inhibited the Nodal pathway and found that nodal acts upstream of Pitx, and that some treated animals developed with a loss of shell chirality. These results indicate that the involvement of the Nodal pathway in left-right asymmetry might have been an ancestral feature of the Bilateria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nodal Protein / genetics
  • Nodal Protein / metabolism*
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Snails / drug effects
  • Snails / embryology*
  • Snails / genetics
  • Snails / metabolism*


  • Nodal Protein
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • homeobox protein PITX1

Associated data

  • GENBANK/EU394705
  • GENBANK/EU394706
  • GENBANK/EU394707
  • GENBANK/EU394708
  • GENBANK/EU797116
  • GENBANK/EU797117
  • GENBANK/EU797118