We have identified a novel frog gene, Pintallavis (the Catalan for lipstick), that is related to the fly fork head and rat HNF-3 genes. Pintallavis is expressed in the organizer region of gastrula embryos as a direct zygotic response to dorsal mesodermal induction. Subsequently, Pintallavis is expressed in axial midline cells of all three germ layers. In axial mesoderm expression is graded with highest levels posteriorly. Midline neural plate cells that give rise to the floor plate transiently express Pintallavis, apparently in response to induction by the notochord. Overexpression of Pintallavis perturbs the development of the neural axis, suppressing the differentiation of anterior and dorsal neural cell types but causing an expansion of the posterior neural tube. Our results suggest that Pintallavis functions in the induction and patterning of the neural axis.

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