Developmental Signaling Research Group

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Introduction of Research

The most popular model to explain the patterning process is the “morphogen gradient and threshold” theory. Many genetic studies indicate that secreted signal proteins, including Wnt, FGF, BMP, and Hh, function as morphogens. In spite of the accumulation of genetic evidence, however, the mechanism of morphogen transport, as well as the characteristics of morphogen molecules themselves, remain to be elucidated. One of our major goals is to reveal the real image of morphogen molecules, and the molecular mechanism underlying the formation of morphogen gradients, including the secretion and extracellular transport of these morphogens.

A: Visualization of Wnt3a revealed that Wnt-expressing cells themselves deform dynamically during mouse spinal cord development (transverse sections of embryos at embryonic day 10.5 (left) and at embryonic day 13.5 (right)).
B: Three-dimensional structure of secreted Wnt proteins: Single particle analysis revealed that Wnt3a form homotrimeric complex (left : upper view, right: side view).