Classical experiments performed on the embryo of the mollusc Ilyanassa obsoleta demonstrate that the 3D macromere acts as an embryonic organizer, by signaling to other cells and inducing them to assume the correct pattern of cell fates. We have discovered that MAP kinase signaling is activated in the cells that require the signal from 3D for normal differentiation. Preventing specification of the D quadrant lineage by removing the polar lobe disrupts the pattern of MAPK activation, as does ablation of the 3D macromere itself. Blocking MAPK activation with the MAP Kinase inhibitor U0126 produces larvae that differentiate the same limited complement of tissues as D quadrant deletions. Our results suggest that the MAP Kinase signaling cascade transduces the inductive signal from 3D and specifies cell fate among the cells that receive the signal.

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