Xenopus, an ideal model system to study vertebrate left-right asymmetry



Vertebrate organ laterality is manifested by the asymmetric morphogenesis and placement of inner organs. Asymmetric induction of the Nodal signaling cascade in the left lateral plate mesoderm (LPM) precedes and is essential for asymmetric organ morphogenesis. While the Nodal cascade is highly conserved, symmetry breakage is considered to vary between the different classes of the vertebrates. In Xenopus, early determinants at cleavage stages were thought to break symmetry, opposed to cilia-driven leftward flow in mammals and fish. The main objectives of this review are to emphasize the conserved nature of symmetry breakage, and to demonstrate the power of Xenopus embryology to analyze and manipulate flow. In addition, mutant phenotypes described in other model organisms can easily be mimicked in frog by single or multiple knockdowns in combination with experimental manipulations and flow analysis. Xenopus, therefore, is ideally suited to address the major open questions in the field. Developmental Dynamics 238:1215–1225, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.