The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 45: 229 - 235 (2001)

Vol 45, Issue 1

Special Issue: The Spemann-Mangold Organizer

Generation of the germ layers along the animal-vegetal axis in Xenopus laevis

Published: 30 November -0001

H Yasuo and P Lemaire

Laboratoire de Génétique et Physiologie du Développement, Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille, CNRS-INSERM-Universite de la Méditerrannée, France.


After completion of gastrulation, typical vertebrate embryos consist of three cell sheets, called germ layers. The outer layer, the ectoderm, which produces the cells of the epidermis and the nervous system; the inner layer, the endoderm, producing the lining of the digestive tube and its associated organs (pancreas, liver, lungs etc.) and the middle layer, the mesoderm, which gives rise to several organs (heart, kidney, gonads), connective tissues (bone, muscles, tendons, blood vessels), and blood cells. The formation of the germ layers is one of the earliest embryonic events to subdivide multicellular embryos into a few compartments. In Xenopus laevis, the spatial domains of three germ layers are largely separated along the animal-vegetal axis even before gastrulation; ectoderm in the animal pole region; mesoderm in the equatorial region and endoderm in the vegetal pole region. In this review, we summarise the recent advances in our understanding of the formation of the germ layers in Xenopus laevis.

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