Maintenance of asymmetric nodal expression in Xenopus laevis

Jamie L. Lohr, Maria C. Danos, Travis W. Groth, H. Joseph Yost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Vertebrate species display consistent left-right asymmetry in the arrangement of their internal organs. This asymmetry reflects the establishment of the left-right axis and the alignment of the organs along this axis during development. Members of the TGF-β family of molecules have been implicated in both the establishment and signaling of left-right axis information. Asymmetric expression of one member, nodal [called Xnr-1 in the frog, Xenopus laevis), is highly conserved among species. The nodal-related genes are normally expressed in the left lateral plate mesoderm prior to the development of morphologic asymmetry. Expression patterns of nodal have been correlated with heart situs in mouse, chick, and frog and our previous work has implicated the dorsal midline structures in the regulation of nodal expression and cardiac laterality. In this study, three approaches were used to address the embryologic and molecular basis of asymmetric Xnr-1 expression. First, notochord and lateral plate recombinants were performed and showed that notochord can repress Xnr-1 expression in lateral plate mesoderm explants derived from either the left or the right side. Second, lateral plate mesoderm grafts indicated that Xnr-1 expression's specified but not determined at neurula stages and can subsequently be repatterned. These experiments suggest that a repressive signal from the notochord is required for maintenance of asymmetric Xnr-1 expression and that Xnr-1 expression is regulated by signals outside of the lateral plate mesoderm. Third, candidate molecules were injected to test for their ability to alter Xnr-1 expression pattern in the lateral plate. Late injection of activin protein on the right side of the embryo induced ectopic Xnr-1 expression and randomized cardiac orientation. This suggests that activin or a related TGF-β molecule is involved in the proximal regulation of asymmetric Xnr-1 expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Cardiac development
  • Left-right asymmetry
  • Nodal
  • TGF-β signaling
  • Xnr-1


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