In the chick embryo, left-right asymmetric patterns of gene expression in the lateral plate mesoderm are initiated by signals located in and around Hensen's node. Here we show that Caronte (Car), a secreted protein encoded by a member of the Cerberus/Dan gene family, mediates the Sonic hedgehog (Shh)- dependent induction of left-specific genes in the lateral plate mesoderm. Car is induced by Shh and repressed by fibroblast growth factor-8 (FGF-8). Car activates the expression of Nodal by antagonizing a repressive activity of bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs). Our results define a complex network of antagonistic molecular interactions between Activin, FGF-8, Lefty-1, Nodal, BMPs and Car that cooperate to control left-right asymmetry in the chick embryo.
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