Molecular components of the endoderm specification pathway in Xenopus tropicalis



Xenopus laevis has been instrumental in elucidating a conserved molecular pathway that regulates vertebrate endoderm specification. However, loss-of-function analysis is required to resolve the precise function of the genes involved. For such analysis, antisense oligos and possibly forward genetics are likely to be more effective in the diploid species Xenopus tropicalis than in the pseudotetraploid Xenopus laevis. Here we have isolated most of the tropicalis genes in the endoderm specification pathway, specifically, tVegT, tMixer, tMix, tBix, tGata6, tSox17α, tSox17β, tFoxA1, tHex, and tCerberus, which lack the redundant copies that are found in laevis. In situ hybridization analysis has revealed identical expression patterns between the orthologous tropicalis and laevis endoderm genes, thus suggesting conserved genetic functions. Furthermore, we noted that the smaller tropicalis embryos gave better probe penetration than in laevis whole-mount in situ hybridizations—allowing us to visualize transcripts in the deep endoderm in tropicalis, which is difficult in laevis. This study illustrates how an entire genetic pathway can be quickly transferred from laevis to tropicalis due to high sequence conservation between the sister species and the large number of tropicalis-expressed sequence tags that are now available. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.