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Xenopus as an Experimental Organism

  1. Emmanuel Tadjuidje,
  2. Janet Heasman

Published Online: 15 MAR 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002030.pub2



How to Cite

Tadjuidje, E. and Heasman, J. 2010. Xenopus as an Experimental Organism. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2010


The South African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, is used extensively as a model system to study development. It is easy to maintain a breeding colony of frogs, females can be induced to lay eggs all year round and hundreds of embryos can be generated that grow synchronously from a single fertilization. Embryos are easily amenable to microsurgery at any stage of development and adult frogs survive surgeries performed under limited aseptic conditions. The ease of injecting oligonucleotides or messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) into Xenopus leavis embryos has contributed to the discovery of genes with key functions in development. Another singularity of Xenopus leavis is the ease to manipulate its oocytes before fertilization; this has been a powerful tool to identify the function of maternally deposited mRNAs in development. Transgenic procedures are being developed using the related species Xenopus tropicalis and this will broaden the contribution of Xenopus to the understanding of early development.

Key concepts:

  • Xenopus laevis is easy to raise and feed in large colonies in the laboratory.

  • The female Xenopus can be induced to spawn repeatedly at any season, making it possible to obtain embryos all year round.

  • Xenopus leavis eggs are quite large, and are usually laid in large numbers that are fertilized in vitro.

  • Xenopus leavis oocytes can easily be obtained and manipulated before fertilization, making it possible to study the function of maternally deposited mRNAs.

  • The Xenopus embryos develop outside the female and are amenable to manipulation at any stage of development.

  • The mechanism of tissue formation has been elucidated from research carried out on Xenopus leavis embryos.

  • Xenopus leavis is an excellent model for studying body axis formation.

  • The early development of Xenopus is very fast, making it possible to study a full developmental programme in about three days.

  • The sequencing of the diploid genome, the ease of obtaining and injecting large numbers of eggs and the relatively short lifespan makes Xenopus tropicalis a very promising model for transgenic studies of organogenesis.

  • Eggs of Xenopus leavis provide a model of choice for studying the regulation of the cell cycle.


  • frog;
  • embryology;
  • tissue formation;
  • gene function;
  • cell cycle