Acloque H. et al.
Snail and Zeb transcription factors induce epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in embryonic and adult tissues by direct repression of E-Cadherin transcription. The repression of E-Cadherin transcription by the EMT inducers Snail1 and Zeb2 plays a fundamental role in defining embryonic territories in the mouse, as E-Cadherin needs to be downregulated in the primitive streak and in the epiblast concomitant with the formation of mesendodermal precursors and the neural plate, respectively. Here we show that in the chick embryo, E-Cadherin is weakly expressed in the epiblast at pre-primitive streak stages where it is substituted by P-Cadherin. We also show that Snail2 and Zeb2 repress P-Cadherin transcription in the primitive streak and the neural plate, respectively. This indicates that E- and P-Cadherin expression patterns evolved differently between chick and mouse. As such, the Snail1/E-Cadherin axis described in the early mouse embryo corresponds to Snail2/P-Cadherin in the chick, but both Snail factors and Zeb2 fulfill a similar role in chick and mouse in directly repressing ectodermal Cadherins to promote the delamination of mesendodermal precursors at gastrulation and the proper specification of the neural ectoderm during neural induction.