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Mech Dev. 2000 Mar 1;91(1-2):69-80.

The control of Xenopus embryonic primary neurogenesis is mediated by retinoid signalling in the neurectoderm.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, UK.


In Xenopus, the primary neurons form in three domains either side of the midline in the posterior neurectoderm. At the late neurula stage there are approximately 120 primary sensory neurons on each side of the embryo. Co-injecting synthetic mRNA encoding retinoic acid receptor alpha (NR1B1) and retinoid X receptor beta (NR2B2) results in an increase in the number of primary neurons and this is further enhanced by the addition of retinoic acid indicating that elevated retinoid signalling promotes an increase in the number of cells undergoing primary neurogenesis. However, primary neurogenesis remains confined to the three domains that normally give rise to primary neurons indicating that not all regions of the neurectoderm respond equivalently to elevated retinoid signalling. The inhibition of retinoid signalling with a dominant negative retinoid receptor or treatment with citral, an inhibitor of retinoid metabolism, inhibits the formation of primary neurons. However, the lateral extent of the neurectoderm does not differ following these experimental manipulations suggesting that changes in primary neuron cell number, in response to changes in retinoid signalling, cannot be accounted for by significant gains or losses of neurectoderm. In addition, two lines of evidence are presented to suggest that retinoid signalling affects primary neurogenesis by acting directly on the neurectoderm. First, animal caps neuralized by noggin undergo primary neurogenesis in response to retinoid signalling and second primary neurogenesis is elevated in neural conjugates in which the ectodermal, but not the mesodermal, component has been co-injected with RAR/RXR mRNA.

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