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Science 308 (5721): 563-566

Copyright © 2005 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Retinoic Acid Controls the Bilateral Symmetry of Somite Formation in the Mouse Embryo

Julien Vermot,1*{dagger}{ddagger} Jabier Gallego Llamas,1* Valérie Fraulob,1 Karen Niederreither,2 Pierre Chambon,1 Pascal Dollé1{ddagger}

Abstract: A striking characteristic of vertebrate embryos is their bilaterally symmetric body plan, which is particularly obvious at the level of the somites and their derivatives such as the vertebral column. Segmentation of the presomitic mesoderm must therefore be tightly coordinated along the left and right embryonic sides. We show that mutant mice defective for retinoic acid synthesis exhibit delayed somite formation on the right side. Asymmetric somite formation correlates with a left-right desynchronization of the segmentation clock oscillations. These data implicate retinoic acid as an endogenous signal that maintains the bilateral synchrony of mesoderm segmentation, and therefore controls bilateral symmetry, in vertebrate embryos.

1 Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/ULP/Collège de France, BP 10142, 67404 Illkirch Cedex, Strasbourg, France.
2 Departments of Medicine and Molecular Biology, Center for Cardiovascular Development, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

* These authors contributed equally to this work.

{dagger} Present address: Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.

{ddagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dolle{at} (P.D.); julien{at} (J.V.)

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