New roles for Wnt and BMP signaling in neural anteroposterior patterning

Hanna Polevoy, Yoni E. Gutkovich, Ariel Michaelov, Yael Volovik, Yaniv M. Elkouby, Dale Frank*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


During amphibian development, neural patterning occurs via a two-step process. Spemann's organizer secretes BMP antagonists that induce anterior neural tissue. A subsequent caudalizing step re-specifies anterior fated cells to posterior fates such as hindbrain and spinal cord. The neural patterning paradigm suggests that a canonical Wnt-signaling gradient acts along the anteroposterior axis to pattern the nervous system. Wnt activity is highest in the posterior, inducing spinal cord, at intermediate levels in the trunk, inducing hindbrain, and is lowest in anterior fated forebrain, while BMP-antagonist levels are constant along the axis. Our results in Xenopus laevis challenge this paradigm. We find that inhibition of canonical Wnt signaling or its downstream transcription factors eliminates hindbrain, but not spinal cord fates, an observation not compatible with a simple high-to-low Wnt gradient specifying all fates along the neural anteroposterior axis. Additionally, we find that BMP activity promotes posterior spinal cord cell fate formation in an FGF-dependent manner, while inhibiting hindbrain fates. These results suggest a need to re-evaluate the paradigms of neural anteroposterior pattern formation during vertebrate development.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere45842
JournalEMBO Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors


  • BMP signaling
  • Xenopus
  • canonical Wnt signaling
  • hindbrain and spinal cord
  • neural anteroposterior patterning


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