We have examined the role of FGF signalling in the development of muscle and notochord and in the expression of early mesodermal markers in Xenopus embryos. Disruption of the FGF signalling pathway by expression of a dominant negative construct of the FGF receptor (XFD) generally results in gastrulation defects that are later evident in the formation of the trunk and tail, though head structures are formed nearly normally. These defects are reflected in the loss of notochord and muscle. Even in embryos that show mild defects and gastrulate properly, muscle formation is impaired, suggesting that morphogenesis and tissue differentiation each depend on FGF. The XFD protein inhibits the expression of the immediate early gene brachyury throughout the marginal zone, including the dorsal side; it does not, however, inhibit the dorsal lip marker goosecoid, which is expressed in the first involuting mesoderm at the dorsal side that will underlie the head. The XFD protein also inhibits Xpo expression, an immediate early marker of ventral and lateral mesoderm. These results suggest that FGF is involved in the earliest events of most mesoderm induction that occur before gastrulation and that the early dorsal mesoderm is already composed of two cell populations that differ in their requirements for FGF.

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