Dose-dependent Nodal/Smad signals pattern the early mouse embryo.
Nodal signals in the early post-implantation stage embryo are essential to establish initial proximal-distal (P-D) polarity and generate the final anterior-posterior (A-P) body axis. Nodal signaling in the epiblast results in the phosphorylation of Smad2 in the overlying visceral endoderm necessary to induce the AVE, in part via Smad2-dependent activation of the T-box gene Eomesodermin. Slightly later following mesoderm induction a continuum of dose-dependent Nodal signaling during the process of gastrulation underlies specification of mesodermal and definitive endoderm progenitors. Dynamic Nodal expression during the critical 72 h time window immediately following implantation, accomplished by a series of feed-back and feed-forward mechanisms serves to provide key positional cues required for establishment of the body plan and controls cell fate decisions in the early mammalian embryo.