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Growth factors and early mesoderm morphogenesis: insights from the sea urchin embryo.
The early morphogenesis of the mesoderm is critically important in establishing the body plan of the embryo. Recent research has led to a better understanding of the mechanisms that underlie this process, and growth factor signaling pathways have emerged as key regulators of the directional movements of mesoderm cells during gastrulation. In this review, we undertake a comparative analysis of the various essential functions of growth factor signaling pathways in regulating early mesoderm morphogenesis, with an emphasis on recent advances in the sea urchin embryo. We focus on the roles of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) pathways in the migration of primary mesenchyme cells and the formation of the embryonic endoskeleton. We compare the functions of VEGF and FGF in sea urchins with the roles that these and other growth factors play in regulating mesoderm migration during gastrulation in Drosophila and vertebrates.