• asymmetry;
  • calcium ionophore;
  • left–right axis;
  • norepinephrine;
  • octopamine;
  • Xenopus laevis embryo

Xenopus laevis embryos at the blastula–early tail bud stage were exposed to norepinephrine or octopamine dissolved in culture saline until they reached the larval stage. The left–right asymmetry of the heart and gut was then examined. We found that these adrenergic neurotransmitters induced situs inversus in the heart and/or gut in up to 35% of tested neurula embryos. Norepinephrine-induced situs inversus was blocked by the α-1 adrenergic antagonist prazosin. Furthermore, A23187, a calcium ionophore, also increased the incidence of situs inversus up to 54% when late-neurula embryos were exposed to the solution. A23187 treatment initiated before neural groove formation was less effective. The incidence of situs inversus induced by these reagents decreased towards the control level (2.2%, 25 untreated embryos out of 1127 embryos in total) in embryos past the stage of neural tube closure. In the present experiments we obtained 22 gut-only situs inversus embryos having an inverted gut and a normal heart. In contrast, such embryos were not observed among the 1127 untreated embryos. An adrenergic signal mediated by an increase in intracellular free calcium may be involved in the asymmetrical visceral morphogenesis of Xenopus embryos.