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Dev Biol. 2006 Aug 1;296(1):12-28. Epub 2006 Apr 21.

Heading in a new direction: implications of the revised fate map for understanding Xenopus laevis development.

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


Amphibian embryos have served as a model system for vertebrate axial patterning for more than a century. Recent changes to the Xenopus laevis fate map revised the assignment of the embryonic dorsal/ventral (back-to-belly) axis in pre-gastrula embryos and allowed the assignment of the rostral/caudal (head-to-tail) axis for the first time. Revising the embryonic axes after many years of experimentation changes our view of axial patterning in amphibians. In this review, we discuss the revised maps and axes, and show by example how the new map alters the interpretation of three experiments that form the foundations of amphibian embryology. We compare the revised amphibian fate map to the general maps of the protochordates, and discuss which features of the maps and early development are shared by chordates and which distinguish vertebrates. Finally, we offer an explanation for the formation of both complete and incomplete axes in the rescue assays routinely used to study axial patterning in Xenopus, and a model of amphibian axial patterning.

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