Cloning and characterization of the T-box gene Tbx6 in Xenopus laevis


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Tbx6 is a member of the T-box gene family. Studies of knockout mice indicate that Tbx6 is involved in somite differentiation. In the present study, we cloned Tbx6 from another vertebrate species, namely Xenopus laevis, and studied its roles in development. The expression of Tbx6 in Xenopus started from the early gastrula stage, reached a peak during the late gastrula to neurula stages and then declined. Initial expression of Tbx6 was observed in the paraxial mesoderm during the gastrula stage. The Tbx6-expressing region spread anteriorly and ventrally in the neurula stage. In the tailbud stage, the area of expression shrank caudally and was finally restricted to the tip of the tailbud. Overexpression of Tbx6 mRNA in dorsal blastomeres caused atrophy of the neural tube and inhibited differentiation of the notochord. Animal cap explants overexpressing Tbx6 or Tbx6VP16 mRNA, but not Tbx6EnR mRNA, differentiated mainly into ventral mesodermal tissues. This suggests that Tbx6 is a transcriptional activator. Higher doses of Tbx6 or Tbx6VP16 mRNA caused hardly any muscular differentiation. However, coinjection of Tbx6 mRNA with noggin mRNA elicited marked muscle differentiation. These results suggest that Tbx6 is implicated in ventral mesoderm specification but is involved in muscle differentiation when acting together with the dorsalizing factor noggin.