Nat Commun. 2024 Feb 2;15(1):1003. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-44951-7
Establishment of the left-right (LR, sinistral, dextral) body axis in many vertebrate embryos relies on cilia-driven leftward fluid flow within an LR organizer (LRO). A cardinal question is how leftward flow triggers symmetry breakage. The chemosensation model posits that ciliary flow enriches a signaling molecule on the left side of the LRO that promotes sinistral cell fate. However, the nature of this sinistralizing signal has remained elusive. In the Xenopus LRO, we identified the stem cell growth factor R-Spondin 2 (Rspo2) as a symmetrically expressed, sinistralizing signal. As predicted for a flow-mediated signal, Rspo2 operates downstream of leftward flow but upstream of the asymmetrically expressed gene dand5. Unexpectedly, in LR patterning, Rspo2 acts as an FGF receptor antagonist: Rspo2 via its TSP1 domain binds Fgfr4 and promotes its membrane clearance by Znrf3-mediated endocytosis. Concordantly, we find that at flow-stage, FGF signaling is dextralizing and forms a gradient across the LRO, high on the dextral- and low on the sinistral side. Rspo2 gain- and loss-of function equalize this FGF signaling gradient and sinistralize and dextralize development, respectively. We propose that leftward flow of Rspo2 produces an FGF signaling gradient that governs LR-symmetry breakage.
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