Toward an unbiased evolutionary platform for unraveling Xenopus developmental gene networks



The availability of both the Xenopus tropicalis genome and the soon to be released Xenopus laevis genome provides a solid foundation for Xenopus developmental biologists. The Xenopus community has presently amassed expression data for ∼2,300 genes in the form of published images collected in the Xenbase, the principal Xenopus research database. A few of these genes have been examined in both X. tropicalis and X. laevis and the cross-species comparison has been proven invaluable for studying gene function. A recently published work has yielded developmental expression profiles for the majority of Xenopus genes across fourteen developmental stages spanning the blastula, gastrula, neurula, and the tail-bud. While this data was originally queried for global evolutionary and developmental principles, here we demonstrate its general use for gene-level analyses. In particular, we present the accessibility of this dataset through Xenbase and describe biases in the characterized genes in terms of sequence and expression conservation across the two species. We further indicate the advantage of examining coexpression for gene function discovery relating to developmental processes conserved across species. We suggest that the integration of additional large-scale datasets—comprising diverse functional data—into Xenbase promises to provide a strong foundation for researchers in elucidating biological processes including the gene regulatory programs encoding development. genesis 50:186–191, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.