Many animal embryos use nuclear β-catenin (nβ-catenin) during the segregation of endomesoderm (or endoderm) from ectoderm. This mechanism is thus likely to be evolutionarily ancient. In the ascidian embryo, nβ-catenin reiteratively drives binary fate decisions between ectoderm and endomesoderm at the 16-cell stage, and then between endoderm and margin (mesoderm and caudal neural) at the 32-cell stage. At the 16-cell stage, nβ-catenin activates endomesoderm genes in the vegetal hemisphere. At the same time, nβ-catenin suppresses the DNA-binding activity of a maternal transcription factor Gata.a through a physical interaction, and Gata.a thereby activates its target genes only in the ectodermal lineage. In the present study, we found that this antagonism between nβ-catenin and Gata.a also operates during the binary fate switch at the 32-cell stage. Namely, in marginal cells where nβ-catenin is absent, Gata.a directly activates its target, Zic-r.b (ZicL), to specify the marginal cell lineages. Thus, the antagonistic action between nβ-catenin and Gata.a is consecutively involved during the segregation of the germ layers in ascidian embryos.
- Received June 22, 2016.
- Accepted September 22, 2016.