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In Vitro Cell Dev Biol. 1991 Nov;27A(11):853-7.

Induction of metamorphosis by thyroid hormone in anuran small intestine cultured organotypically in vitro.

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Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, Dokkyo University, Tochigi, Japan.


We have developed an organ culture system of the anuran small intestine to reproduce in vitro the transition from larval to adult epithelial form which occurs during spontaneous metamorphosis. Tubular fragments isolated from the small intestine of Xenopus laevis tadpoles were slit open and placed on membrane filters in culture dishes. In 60% Leibovitz 15 medium supplemented with 10% charcoal-treated serum, the explants were maintained in good condition for at least 10 days without any morphologic changes. Addition of triiodothyronine (T3) at a concentration higher than 10(-9) M to the medium could induce cell death of larval epithelial cells, but T3 alone was not sufficient for proliferation and differentiation of adult epithelial cells. When insulin (5 micrograms/ml) and cortisol (0.5 microgram/ml) besides T3 were added, the adult cells proliferated and differentiated just as during spontaneous metamorphosis. On Day 5 of cultivation, the adult cells rapidly proliferated to form typical islets, whereas the larval ones rapidly degenerated. At the same time, the connective tissue beneath the epithelium suddenly increased in cell density. These changes correspond to those occurring at the onset of metamorphic climax. By Day 10, the adult cells differentiated into a simple columnar epithelium which possessed the brush border and showed the adult-type lectin-binding pattern. Therefore, the larval epithelium of the small intestine responded to the hormones and transformed into the adult one. This organ culture system may be useful for clarifying the mechanism of the epithelial transition from larval to adult type during metamorphosis.

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