Medical research

Fluorescent probes shed light on embryonic brain development

The formation of a 'body plan' during embryonic development is driven by the distribution of signaling molecules called morphogens in the embryo, determining front from back and left from right. Atsushi Miyawaki, Satoshi ...

Medical research

Retinoic acid gradient visualized for the first time in an embryo

In a ground-breaking study, researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan report a new technique that allows them to visualize the distribution of retinoic acid in a live zebrafish embryo, in real-time. This ...


A morphogen is a substance governing the pattern of tissue development, and the positions of the various specialized cell types within a tissue. It spreads from a localized source and forms a concentration gradient across a developing tissue[citation needed].

In developmental biology a morphogen is rigorously used to mean a signaling molecule that acts directly on cells (not through serial induction) to produce specific cellular responses dependent on morphogen concentration[citation needed].

Well-known morphogens include: Decapentaplegic / Transforming growth factor beta, Hedgehog / Sonic Hedgehog, Wingless / Wnt, Epidermal growth factor, Fibroblast growth factor, and Retinoic acid[citation needed].

Morphogens are defined conceptually, not chemically[citation needed], so simple compounds such as retinoic acid (the active metabolite of retinol or vitamin A) may also act as morphogens[citation needed].

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