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Dev Biol. 2004 Jun 1;270(1):163-85.

Pattern and morphogenesis of presumptive superficial mesoderm in two closely related species, Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis.

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Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Gilmer Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903, USA.


The mesoderm, comprising the tissues that come to lie entirely in the deep layer, originates in both the superficial epithelial and the deep mesenchymal layers of the early amphibian embryo. Here, we characterize the mechanisms by which the superficial component of the presumptive mesoderm ingresses into the underlying deep mesenchymal layer in Xenopus tropicalis and extend our previous findings for Xenopus laevis. Fate mapping the superficial epithelium of pregastrula stage embryos demonstrates ingression of surface cells into both paraxial and axial mesoderm (including hypochord), in similar patterns and amounts in both species. Superficial presumptive notochord lies medially, flanked by presumptive hypochord and both overlie the deep region of the presumptive notochord. These tissues are flanked laterally by superficial presumptive somitic mesoderm, the anterior tip of which also appears to overlay the presumptive deep notochord. Time-lapse recordings show that presumptive somitic and notochordal cells move out of the roof of the gastrocoel and into the deep region during neurulation, whereas hypochordal cells ingress after neurulation. Scanning electron microscopy at the stage and position where ingression occurs suggests that superficial presumptive somitic cells in X. laevis ingress into the deep region as bottle cells whereas those in X. tropicalis ingress by "relamination" (e.g., [Dev. Biol. 174 (1996) 92]). In both species, the superficially derived presumptive somitic cells come to lie in the medial region of the presumptive somites during neurulation. By the early tailbud stages, these cells lie at the horizontal myoseptum of the somites. The morphogenic pathway of these cells strongly resembles that of the primary slow muscle pioneer cells of the zebrafish. We present a revised fate map of Xenopus, and we discuss the conservation of superficial mesoderm within amphibians and across the chordates and its implications for the role of this tissue in patterning the mesoderm.

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