Activin signalling and response to a morphogen gradient

Nature. 1994 Oct 6;371(6497):487-92. doi: 10.1038/371487a0.


Using combinations of amphibian embryo tissues, it is shown that the selection of genes expressed by a cell is determined by its distance from a source of activin, a peptide growth factor contained in vegetal cells and able to induce other cells to form mesoderm. This long-range signal spreads over at least 10 cell diameters in a few hours. It does so by passive diffusion, because it can by-pass cells that do not themselves respond to the signal nor synthesize protein. These results provide direct support for the operation of a morphogen concentration gradient in vertebrate development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activins
  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement
  • Culture Techniques
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Diffusion
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Embryonic Development
  • Embryonic Induction*
  • Fetal Proteins / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Goosecoid Protein
  • Homeodomain Proteins*
  • Inhibins / genetics
  • Inhibins / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • T-Box Domain Proteins*
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Xenopus


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Fetal Proteins
  • Goosecoid Protein
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Repressor Proteins
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Activins
  • Inhibins
  • Brachyury protein