An organizer population has been identified in the anterior end of the primitive streak of the mid-streak stage embryo, by the expression of Hnf3beta, Gsc(lacZ) and Chrd, and the ability of these cells to induce a second neural axis in the host embryo. This cell population can therefore be regarded as the mid-gastrula organizer and, together with the early-gastrula organizer and the node, constitute the organizer of the mouse embryo at successive stages of development. The profile of genetic activity and the tissue contribution by cells in the organizer change during gastrulation, suggesting that the organizer may be populated by a succession of cell populations with different fates. Fine mapping of the epiblast in the posterior region of the early-streak stage embryo reveals that although the early-gastrula organizer contains cells that give rise to the axial mesoderm, the bulk of the progenitors of the head process and the notochord are localized outside the early gastrula organizer. In the mid-gastrula organizer, early gastrula organizer derived cells that are fated for the prechordal mesoderm are joined by the progenitors of the head process that are recruited from the epiblast previously anterior to the early gastrula organizer. Cells that are fated for the head process move anteriorly from the mid-gastrula organizer in a tight column along the midline of the embryo. Other mid-gastrula organizer cells join the expanding mesodermal layer and colonize the cranial and heart mesoderm. Progenitors of the trunk notochord that are localized in the anterior primitive streak of the mid-streak stage embryo are later incorporated into the node. The gastrula organizer is therefore composed of a constantly changing population of cells that are allocated to different parts of the axial mesoderm.
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