Axis specification in animal development.
Axis specification is the first step in defining specific regions of the developing embryo. Embryos exploit asymmetries, either pre-existing in the egg or triggered by external cues, to establish embryonic axes. The axial information is then used to generate regional differences within the embryo. In this review, we discuss experiments in animals which address three questions: whether the unfertilized egg is constructed with pre-determined axes, what cues are used to specify the embryonic axes, and how these cues are interpreted to generate the initial regional differences within the embryo. Based on mapping the data onto an animal phylogeny, we then propose a scenario for how this primary developmental decision occurred in ancestral metazoans.
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