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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The function of growth/differentiation factor 11 ( Gdf11) in rostrocaudal patterning of the developing spinal cord.

Hoxc family transcription factors are expressed in different domains along the rostrocaudal (RC) axis of the developing spinal cord and they define RC identities of spinal neurons. Our previous study using an in vitro assay system demonstrated that Fgf and Gdf11 signals located around Hensen's node of chick embryos have the ability to induce profiled Hoxc protein expression. To investigate the function of Gdf11 in RC patterning of the spinal cord in vivo, we expressed Gdf11 in chick embryonic spinal cord by in ovo electroporation and found that ectopic expression of Gdf11 in the neural tissue causes a rostral displacement of Hoxc protein expression domains, accompanied by rostral shifts in the positions of motoneuron columns and pools. Moreover, ectopic expression of follistatin ( Fst), an antagonist of Gdf11, has a converse effect and causes caudal displacement of Hox protein expression domains, as well as motoneuron columns and pools. Mouse mutants lacking Gdf11 function exhibit a similar caudal displacement of Hox expression domains, but the severity of phenotype increases towards the caudal end of the spinal cord, indicating that the function of Gdf11 is more important in the caudal spinal cord. We also provide evidence that Gdf11 induces Smad2 phosphorylation and activated Smad2 is able to induce caudal Hox gene expression. These results demonstrate that Gdf11 has an important function in determining Hox gene expression domains and RC identity in the caudal spinal cord.[1]


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