The Spemann organizer induces neural tissue, dorsalizes mesoderm and generates a second dorsal axis. We report the isolation and characterization of Smad10, which has all three of these Spemann activities. Smad10 is expressed at the appropriate time to transduce Spemann signals endogenously. Like the organizer, Smad10 generates anterior and posterior neural tissues. Smad10 appears to function downstream of the Spemann organizer, consistent with a role in mediating organizer-derived signals. Interestingly, Smad10, unlike previously characterized mediators of Spemann activity, does not appear to block BMP signals. This finding, coupled with the functional activity and expression profile, suggests that Smad10 mediates Spemann action in a novel manner.
The proteins necessary for signal transduction in cells responding to ligands of the TGF-beta family are largely unknown. We have previously identified Mad (Mothers against dpp), a gene that interacts with the TGF-beta family member encoded by decapentaplegic (dpp) in Drosophila. Assay of Mad's role in the DPP-dependent events of embryonic midgut development demonstrates that Mad is required for any response of the visceral mesoderm or endoderm to DPP signals from the visceral mesoderm. Replacement of the normal DPP promoter with a heterologous (hsp70) promoter fails to restore DPP-dependent responses in Mad mutant midguts. Experiments utilizing Mad transgenes regulated by tissue-specific promoters show that MAD is required specifically in cells responding to DPP. Immunohistochemical studies localize MAD to the cytoplasm in all tissues examined. Experiments in Xenopus embryos demonstrate that Drosophila MAD can function in the signaling pathway of BMP-4, a vertebrate homolog of dpp. Based on these results, we propose that Mad is a highly conserved and essential element of the DPP signal transduction pathway.
We examine roles of signaling by secreted ligands of the TGF-beta family during Drosophila oogenesis. One family member, the DPP ligand encoded by the decapentaplegic (dpp) gene, is required for patterning of anterior eggshell structures. This requirement presumably reflects the expression pattern of dpp in an anterior subset of somatic follicle cells: the centripetally migrating and the nurse cell-associated follicle cells. Similar requirements are also revealed by mutations in the saxophone (sax)-encoded receptor, consistent with the idea that DPP signaling is, at least in part, mediated by the SAX receptor. A loss of germline sax function results in a block in oogenesis associated with egg chamber degeneration and a failure of the transfer of nurse cell contents to the oocyte, indicating that TGF-beta signaling is required for these events. Some phenotypes of sax mutations during oogenesis suggest that SAX responds to at least one other TGF-beta ligand as well in the posterior follicle cells.