Human embryonic stem cells differentiate into gastrula organizer cells that express typical markers and induce secondary axes when injected into frog embryos. Here, we report that these human organizer cells express DUXO (DUX of the Organizer), a novel member of the double-homeobox (DUX) family of transcription factors, a group of genes unique to placental mammals. Both of DUXO's homeodomains share high similarity with those of Siamois and Twin, the initial inducers of the amphibian gastrula organizer. DUXO overexpression in human embryoid bodies induces organizer related genes, whereas its knock down hampers formation of the organizer and its derivatives. Finally, we show that DUXO regulates GOOSECOID, the canonical organizer marker, in a direct manner, suggesting that DUXO is a major regulator of human organizer formation.
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