Nodal is considered the key inducer of mesendoderm in vertebrate embryos and embryonic stem cells. Other TGF-beta-related signals, such as Vg1/Dvr1/Gdf3, have also been implicated in this process but their roles have been unclear or controversial. Here we report that zebrafish embryos without maternally provided vg1 fail to form endoderm and head and trunk mesoderm, and closely resemble nodal loss-of-function mutants. Although Nodal is processed and secreted without Vg1, it requires Vg1 for its endogenous activity. Conversely, Vg1 is unprocessed and resides in the endoplasmic reticulum without Nodal, and is only secreted, processed and active in the presence of Nodal. Co-expression of Nodal and Vg1 results in heterodimer formation and mesendoderm induction. Thus, mesendoderm induction relies on the combination of two TGF-beta-related signals: maternal and ubiquitous Vg1, and zygotic and localized Nodal. Modeling reveals that the pool of maternal Vg1 enables rapid signaling at low concentrations of zygotic Nodal.
- Alexander F Schier
- Tessa G Montague
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All vertebrate animal work was performed at the facilities of Harvard University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences (HU/FAS). The HU/FAS animal care and use program maintains full AAALAC accreditation, is assured with OLAW (A3593-01), and is currently registered with the USDA. This study was approved by the Harvard University/Faculty of Arts & Sciences Standing Committee on the Use of Animals in Research & Teaching under Protocol No. 25-08.
- Elizabeth Robertson, Reviewing Editor, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
© 2017, Montague & Schier
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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Vertebrate embryonic patterning depends on signaling from Nodal, a TGFβ superfamily member. There are three Nodal orthologs in zebrafish; southpaw directs left-right asymmetries, while squint and cyclops function earlier to pattern mesendoderm. TGFβ member Vg1 is implicated in mesoderm formation but the role of the zebrafish ortholog, Growth differentiation factor 3 (Gdf3), has not been fully explored. We show that zygotic expression of gdf3 is dispensable for embryonic development, while maternally deposited gdf3 is required for mesendoderm formation and dorsal-ventral patterning. We further show that Gdf3 can affect left-right patterning at multiple stages, including proper development of regional cell morphology in Kupffer’s vesicle and the establishment of southpaw expression in the lateral plate mesoderm. Collectively, our data indicate that gdf3 is critical for robust Nodal signaling at multiple stages in zebrafish embryonic development.
Experiments by three independent groups on zebrafish have clarified the role of two signaling factors, Nodal and Gdf3, during the early stages of development