The single-cell resolution (the sequence of mechanisms that establish cell lineages and cell fates during metazoan development) is a major aspect of animal development, but the specific genes involved remain unclear. In April 1 Development, Scott Cameron and colleagues from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas show that PAG-3, a Zn-finger transcription factor, determines neuroblast fate in Caenorhabditis elegans and is essential for development of the erythroid and megakaryocytic lineages in mice.

Cameron et al. searched for mutants with abnormal patterns of ventral cord cell deaths, and found alleles of the gene pag-3, which encodes a zinc-finger transcription factor similar to the mammalian Gfi-1 and Drosophila Senseless proteins. The phenotype of pag-3 mutants and the expression pattern of the PAG-3 protein suggested that in some lineages pag-3 coupled the determination of neuroblast cell fate to subsequent neuronal differentiation.

Following on from this work they collaborated in...

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