Specification of embryonic polarity and pattern formation in multicellular organisms requires inductive signals from neighboring cells. One approach toward understanding these interactions is to study mutations that disrupt development. Here, we demonstrate that mesd, a gene identified in the mesoderm development (mesd) deletion interval on mouse chromosome 7, is essential for specification of embryonic polarity and mesoderm induction. MESD functions in the endoplasmic reticulum as a specific chaperone for LRP5 and LRP6, which in conjunction with Frizzled, are coreceptors for canonical WNT signal transduction. Disruption of embryonic polarity and mesoderm differentiation in mesd-deficient embryos likely results from a primary defect in WNT signaling. However, phenotypic differences between mesd-deficient and wnt3(-)(/)(-) embryos suggest that MESD may function on related members of the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) family, whose members mediate diverse cellular processes ranging from cargo transport to signaling.
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