The embryonic midline is crucial for the development of embryonic pattern including bilateral symmetry and left-right asymmetry. In zebrafish, lefty1 (lft1) and lefty2 (lft2) have distinct midline expression domains along the anteroposterior axis that overlap with the expression patterns of the nodal-related genes cyclops and squint. Altered expression patterns of lft1 and lft2 in zebrafish mutants that affect midline development suggests different upstream pathways regulate each expression domain. Ectopic expression analysis demonstrates that a balance of lefty and cyclops signaling is required for normal mesendoderm patterning and goosecoid, no tail and pitx2 expression. In late somite-stage embryos, lft1 and lft2 are expressed asymmetrically in the left diencephalon and left lateral plate respectively, suggesting an additional role in laterality development. A model is proposed by which the vertebrate midline, and thus bilateral symmetry, is established and maintained by antagonistic interactions among co-expressed members of the lefty and nodal subfamilies of TGF-beta signaling molecules.

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