The Francis Crick Institute
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Transcriptomics of dorso-ventral axis determination in Xenopus tropicalis

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-09-07, 11:13 authored by Rita S Monteiro, George E Gentsch, James C Smith
Amphibian embryos provide a powerful system to study early cell fate determination because their eggs are externally fertilised, large, and easy to manipulate. Ultraviolet (UV) or lithium chloride (LiCl) treatment are classic embryonic manipulations frequently used to perturb specification of the dorso-ventral (DV) axis by affecting the stability of the maternal Wnt mediator β-catenin. Such treatments result in the formation of so-called ventralised or dorsalised embryos. Although these phenotypes have been well described with respect to their morphology and some aspects of gene expression, their whole transcriptomes have never been systematically characterised and compared. Here we show that at the early gastrula stage UV-treated embryos are transcriptionally more closely related to untreated embryos than to LiCl-treated embryos. Transcriptional comparisons with dissected ventral and dorsal regions of unperturbed gastrula embryos indicate that UV and LiCl treatments indeed enrich for ventral and dorsal cells, respectively. However, these treatments also affect the balance of neural induction in the ectodermal germ layer, with LiCl stimulating pro-neural BMP inhibition and UV preferentially generating epidermis because of elevated BMP levels. Thus the transcriptomes of UV- and LiCl-treated embryos can best be described as ventro-epidermalised and dorso-neuralised. These descriptions notwithstanding, our profiling reveals several hitherto uncharacterized genes with differential expression along the DV axis. At least one of these genes, a RNF220-like ubiquitin ligase, is activated dorsally by β-catenin. Our analysis of UV/LiCl-mediated axis perturbation will enhance the mechanistic understanding of DV axis determination in vertebrates.