Using Xenopus as a model system for an undergraduate laboratory course in vertebrate development at the University of Bordeaux, France
Published: 1 January 2003
Michelle Olive, Pierre Thiebaud, Marc Landry, Michel Duvert, Alain Verna, Wilfrid Barillot and Nadine Theze
INSERM U441, Pessac, France.
The goal of this laboratory course is to introduce vertebrate developmental biology to undergraduate students, emphasizing both classical and contemporary aspects of this field. During the course, the students combine the use of living Xenopus laevis material with active tutorial participation, with the aim of illustrating how the fertilized egg can generate the diversity of cell types and complexity of pattern seen only a few days later in the embryo. Special emphasis is given to the observation and manipulation of living material. The laboratory course includes a comprehensive analysis of both oogenesis and early development and is divided into two overlapping parts that combine tutorial and practical approaches. The first part is devoted to oogenesis; oocytes are sorted out, allowed to mature in vitro and observed in histological section. In the second part, students perform an in vitro fertilization of Xenopus eggs and a mesoderm and neural induction assay of animal cap explants. Successful induction of the explants is confirmed by morphological, histological and molecular analyses. Finally, the students observe and comment on selected slides to illustrate the organization of the body plan of the amphibian embryo at an early stage of organogenesis.