Cooperation between T-box factors regulates the continuous segregation of germ layers during vertebrate embryogenesis
A wild-type vertebrate embryo first generates its head and then extends its main body axis by successively appending trunk and tail. This rostro-caudal (head-to-tail) development is initiated by a set of morphogenetic movements known as gastrulation that recruits multipotent cells into one of the three morphologically distinct germ layers: ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm. These primordial tissues go on to form complementary sets of connective tissues and organs to build the head and at least some of the trunk. In contrast, the tail appears to be formed without clear germ layer segregation from a terminally located growth zone (the tailbud). Recent research shows that the tailbud retains some pregastrulation multipotency to generate derivatives of different germ layers such as spinal cord (ectoderm) and skeletal muscle (mesoderm). This review discusses the emerging role of T-box transcription factors in this process and their intricate relationship with other genetic components to regulate multipotency and germ layer segregation during axial elongation-from gastrulation to the termination of tail growth.