• primary motoneurons;
  • Rohon-Beard neurons;
  • Xbra;
  • sox2;
  • n-tubulin;
  • chordin;
  • BMP4


In Xenopus, localized factors begin to regionalize embryonic fates prior to the inductive interactions that occur during gastrulation. We previously reported that an animal-to-vegetal signal that occurs prior to gastrulation promotes primary spinal neuron fate in vegetal equatorial (C-tier) blastomere lineages. Herein we demonstrate that maternal mRNA encoding noggin is enriched in animal tiers and at low concentrations in the C-tier, suggesting that the neural fates of C-tier blastomeres may be responsive to early signaling from their neighboring cells. In support of this hypothesis, experimental alteration of the levels of Noggin from animal equatorial (B-tier) or BMP4 from vegetal (D-tier) blastomeres significantly affects the numbers of primary spinal neurons derived from their neighboring C-tier blastomeres. These effects are duplicated in blastomere explants isolated at cleavage stages and cultured in the absence of gastrulation interactions. Co-culture with animal blastomeres enhanced the expression of zygotic neural markers in C-tier blastomere explants, whereas co-culture with vegetal blastomeres repressed them. The expression of these markers in C-tier explants was promoted when Noggin was transiently added to the culture during cleavage/morula stages, and repressed with the transient addition of BMP4. Reduction of Noggin translation in B-tier blastomeres by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides significantly reduced the efficacy of neural marker induction in C-tier explants. These experiments indicate that early anti-BMP signaling from the animal hemisphere recruits vegetal equatorial cells into the neural precursor pool prior to interactions that occur during gastrulation. Developmental Dynamics 236:171–183, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.