Somite formation is a lengthy process that begins at gastrulation and continues through tailbud stages to form approximately 50 pairs of somites in the frog, Xenopus laevis. In Xenopus, the somite primarily gives rise to myotome. We sought to determine whether the formation of somites and myotome requires a transient signal active during gastrulation or a constitutive signal active throughout development to instruct dorsal mesodermal cells to form the posterior somites. Previous work from our lab revealed that cells from the neural ectoderm are capable of responding to mesoderm-inducing signals [Domingo and Keller: Dev Biol 2000;225:226-240]. Thus, to test for the presence of somite-inducing signals, we performed a series of grafting experiments in which we used gastrula cells from the anterior neural ectoderm (ANE). Fluorescently labeled ANE cells were grafted to the posterior paraxial mesoderm of progressively older host embryos between stages 11 (mid gastrula) and 23 (early tailbud). Our results showed that signals within the paraxial mesoderm can instruct prospective ANE cells, which normally give rise to head structures, to instead differentiate into myotome cells. We found that the grafted cells adopted the local paraxial mesoderm cell behaviors, which consists of mediolateral intercalation, segmentation, somite cell rotation, and differentiation to myotome. In addition, we show that the grafted ANE cells that adopt a myotome morphology also express the muscle-specific marker, 12/101. Through a series of heterochronic grafts, we determined that the duration of somite-inducing signals extends from the early gastrula (stage 11) through the early tailbud (stage 23) stage embryos. These results demonstrate that somite induction is not a transient event that occurs during gastrulation, but that it is instead a continuous event that can occur as new somites are added to the posterior axis.
- Cell fate
ASJC Scopus subject areas