Developmental analysis of activin-like kinase receptor-4 (ALK4) expression in Xenopus laevis

Authors

  • Yumei Chen,

    1. Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina
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  • Lisha L. Whitaker,

    1. Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, South Carolina
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  • Ann F. Ramsdell

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina
    2. Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, South Carolina
    3. Program in Women's Studies, College of Liberal Arts, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
    • Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425
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Abstract

The type I transforming growth factor-beta (TGFβ) receptor, activin-like kinase-4 (ALK4), is an important regulator of vertebrate development, with roles in mesoderm induction, primitive streak formation, gastrulation, dorsoanterior patterning, and left–right axis determination. To complement previous ALK4 functional studies, we have analyzed ALK4 expression in embryos of the frog, Xenopus laevis. Results obtained with reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction indicate that ALK4 is present in both the animal and vegetal poles of blastula stage embryos and that expression levels are relatively constant amongst embryos examined at blastula, gastrula, neurula, and early tail bud stages. However, the tissue distribution of ALK4 mRNA, as assessed by whole-mount in situ hybridization, was found to change over this range of developmental stages. In the blastula stage embryo, ALK4 is detected in cells of the animal pole and the marginal zone. During gastrulation, ALK4 is detected in the outer ectoderm, involuting mesoderm, blastocoele roof, dorsal lip, and to a lesser extent, in the endoderm. At the onset of neurulation, ALK4 expression is prominent in the dorsoanterior region of the developing head, the paraxial mesoderm, and midline structures, including the prechordal plate and neural folds. Expression in older neurula stage embryos resolves to the developing brain, somites, notochord, and neural crest; thereafter, additional sites of ALK4 expression in tail bud stage embryos include the spinal cord, otic placode, developing eye, lateral plate mesoderm, branchial arches, and the bilateral heart fields. Together, these results not only reflect the multiple developmental roles that have been proposed for this TGFβ receptor but also define spatiotemporal windows in which ALK4 may function to modulate fundamental embryological events. Developmental Dynamics 232:393–398, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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