The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 1399 - 1407 (2009)

Vol 53, Issue 8-9-10

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in Hispania (Spain & Portugal)

Generating asymmetries in the early vertebrate embryo: the role of the Cerberus-like family

Review | Published: 1 November 2009

José António Belo*,1,2,3, Ana C. Silva1,2, Ana-Cristina Borges1,2, Mário Filipe1, Margaret Bento1,2, Lisa Gonçalves1,2, Marta Vitorino2, Ana-Marisa Salgueiro1,2, Vera Texeira1, Ana T. Tavares1 and Sara Marques1,2

1Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal and 2IBB-Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centro de Biomedicina Molecular e Estrutural, Universidade do Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, Faro, Portugal


One fundamental aspect of vertebrate embryonic development is the formation of the body plan. For this process, asymmetries have to be generated during early stages of development along the three main body axes: Anterior-Posterior, Dorso-Ventral and Left-Right. We have been studying the role of a novel class of molecules, the Cerberus/Dan gene family. These are dedicated secreted antagonists of three major signaling pathways: Nodal, BMP and Wnt. Our studies contribute to the current view that the fine tuning of signaling is controlled by a set of inhibitory molecules rather than by activators. In this context, the Cerberus-like molecules emerge as key players in the regulation and generation of asymmetries in the early vertebrate embryo.


Cerberus, nodal, gastrulation, body axis, embryogenesis

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