Regulation and function of Xparaxis during the development of paraxial mesoderm in Xenopus laevis

Keith Lloyd Ligon, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Genes of the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor family have been implicated in many different developmental processes from neurogenesis to myogenesis. The recently cloned bHLH transcription factor, paraxis, has been found to be expressed in the paraxial mesoderm of the mouse suggesting a role for paraxis in the development of this mesodermal subtype which gives rise to the axial muscle, skeleton, and dermis of the embryo. In order to perform in vivo gain of function assays and obtain a better understanding of the possible roles of paraxis in mesodermal and somitic development, we have successfully identified homologues of paraxis in the frog, Xenopus laevis, where the process of mesodermal induction and development is best understood. The two homologues, Xparaxis-a and Xparaxis-b, are conserved with respect to their murine homologue in structure and expression within the embryo. Xparaxis genes are expressed immediately after gastrulation in the paraxial mesoderm of Xenopus embryos and are down regulated in the myotome of the mature somite with continued expression in the undifferentiated dermatome. Overexpression of Xparaxis-b in Xenopus embryos caused defects in the organization and morphology of the somites. This effect was not dependent on DNA binding of Xparaxis but is likely due to its dimerization with other bHLH factors. Co-injections with XE12 did not diminish the effects indicating that the defects were not the result of limiting amounts of XE12. We also demonstrated that Xparaxis does not cause obvious defects in the cell adhesions and movements required for proper mesoderm patterning during gastrulation. The paraxis proteins also lacked the ability to activate transcription as GAL4 fusion proteins in a GAL4 reporter assay, indicating that the genes may function more as modulators of the activity of dimerization partners than as positively acting cell determination factors. In agreement with this, Xparaxis is regulated in response to other pathways of bHLH gene action, in that XE12 can activate Xparaxis-b, in vivo. In addition we show regulation of Xparaxis in response to mMyoD induced myogenesis pathways, again suggesting Xparaxis plays an important role in the patterning and organization of the paraxial mesoderm.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Cellular biology|Anatomy & physiology|Animals

Recommended Citation

Ligon, Keith Lloyd, "Regulation and function of Xparaxis during the development of paraxial mesoderm in Xenopus laevis" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9700314.