A two-step mechanism generates the spacing pattern of the ciliated cells in the skin of Xenopus embryos

Gisèle A. Deblandre, Daniel A. Wettstein, Naoko Koyano-Nakagawa, Chris Kintner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


The skin of Xenopus embryos contains a population of specialized ciliated cells that are distributed in an evenly spaced pattern. Here we describe two successive steps that govern the differentiation and the generation of the spacing pattern of these ciliated cells. The first step occurs in the inner or sensorial layer of the non-neural ectoderm where a subset of cells are chosen to differentiate into ciliated-cell precursors. This choice is under the control of lateral inhibition mediated by a Suppressor of Hairless-dependent Notch signaling pathway, in which X-Delta-1 is the putative ligand driving the selection process, and a new Enhancer-of-Split-related gene is an epidermal target of Notch signaling. Because nascent ciliated-cell precursors prevent neighboring cells from taking on the same fate, a scattered pattern of these precursors is generated within the deep layer of the non-neural ectoderm. Ciliated-cell precursors then intercalate into the outer layer of cells in the epidermis. We show that the intercalation event acts as a second step to regulate the spacing of the mature ciliated cells. We propose that the differentiation of the ciliated cells is not only regulated by Notch-mediated lateral inhibition, but is also an example where differentiation is coupled to the movement of cells from one cell layer to another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4715-4728
Number of pages14
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Ciliated cell
  • Lateral inhibition
  • Notch
  • Spacing pattern
  • Xenopus


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