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J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1985 Nov;89 Suppl:69-87.

The system specifying body position in the early development of Xenopus, and its response to early perturbations.


Evidence is presented that the system setting up preliminary specifications for contributions to the axial body plan, across vegetal regions of the Xenopus embryo, acts in a widespread way at early stages. Mechanisms that regulate the spatial profile of this primary positional variable, and thus ensure the constancy and harmony of the body plans normally achieved, have lost this integrative ability by the 4-cell stage one hour after the plasm shifts that precede first cleavage and symmetrize the egg. Abnormal, partial or distorted profiles of the positional system across whole eggs or isolates, recorded by these times, are retained to give correspondingly partial or imbalanced mes/endodermal pattern at tailbud larval stages. There is evidence that subsequent 'back-up' positional interactions, which can heal gross positional discontinuities in isolated presumptive lateral half-eggs and so restore bilateral symmetry, also do this at the price of loss of complete pattern specification. This is probably because of an asymmetrical principle whereby relatively activated (dorsoanterior specified) material can raise the level of originally posterior material on contact, whereas the reverse interaction cannot occur. The observations are discussed in relation to apparently different behaviour in certain other amphibian embryos, and to our knowledge of other positional interactions, normal and also experimentally provoked, such as those that set up the germ layers.

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