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Dev Biol. 2000 Sep 1;225(1):37-58.

Designation of the anterior/posterior axis in pregastrula Xenopus laevis.

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Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706, USA.


A new fate map for mesodermal tissues in Xenopus laevis predicted that the prime meridian, which runs from the animal pole to the vegetal pole through the center of Spemann's organizer, is the embryo's anterior midline, not its dorsal midline (M. C. Lane and W. C. Smith, 1999, Development 126, 423-434). In this report, we demonstrate by lineage labeling that the column 1 blastomeres at st. 6, which populate the prime meridian, give rise to the anterior end of the embryo. In addition, we surgically isolate and culture tissue centered on this meridian from early gastrulae. This tissue forms a patterned head with morphologically distinct ventral and dorsal structures. In situ hybridization and immunostaining reveal that the cultured heads contain the anterior tissues of all three germ layers, correctly patterned. Regardless of how we dissect early gastrulae along meridians running from the animal to the vegetal pole, both the formation of head structures and the expression of anterior marker genes always segregate with the prime meridian passing through Spemann's organizer. The prime meridian also gives rise to dorsal, axial mesoderm, but not uniquely, as specification tests show that dorsal mesoderm arises in fragments of the embryo which exclude the prime meridian. These results support the hypothesis that the midline that bisects Spemann's organizer is the embryo's anterior midline.

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