During metazoan development, the temporal pattern of morphogen signaling is critical for organizing cell fates in space and time. Yet, tools for temporally controlling morphogen signaling within the embryo are still scarce. Here, we developed a photoactivatable Nodal receptor to determine how the temporal pattern of Nodal signaling affects cell fate specification during zebrafish gastrulation. By using this receptor to manipulate the duration of Nodal signaling in vivo by light, we show that extended Nodal signaling within the organizer promotes prechordal plate specification and suppresses endoderm differentiation. Endoderm differentiation is suppressed by extended Nodal signaling inducing expression of the transcriptional repressor goosecoid (gsc) in prechordal plate progenitors, which in turn restrains Nodal signaling from upregulating the endoderm differentiation gene sox17 within these cells. Thus, optogenetic manipulation of Nodal signaling identifies a critical role of Nodal signaling duration for organizer cell fate specification during gastrulation.
- Nodal signaling