Zebrafish paraxial protocadherin (papc) encodes a transmembrane cell adhesion molecule (PAPC) expressed in trunk mesoderm undergoing morphogenesis. Microinjection studies with a dominant-negative secreted construct suggest that papc is required for proper dorsal convergence movements during gastrulation. Genetic studies show that papc is a close downstream target of spadetail, gene encoding a transcription factor required for mesodermal morphogenetic movements. Further, we show that the floating head homeobox gene is required in axial mesoderm to repress the expression of both spadetail and papc, promoting notochord and blocking differentiation of paraxial mesoderm. The PAPC structural cell-surface protein may provide a link between regulatory transcription factors and the actual cell biological behaviors that execute morphogenesis during gastrulation.

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