The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 783 - 791 (2014)

Vol 58, Issue 10-11-12

Special Issue: Developmental Herpetology

Activin ligands are required for the re-activation of Smad2 signalling after neurulation and vascular development in Xenopus tropicalis

Open Access | Published: 2 July 2015

Yuki Nagamori, Samantha Roberts, Marissa Maciej and Karel Dorey*

The Healing Foundation Centre, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, UK


The importance of Transforming Growth Factor β (TGFβ) signalling during early development has been well established. In particular, Nodal ligands have been shown to play essential roles for the specification and the patterning of the mesendoderm, axes formation and organogenesis. Activin ligands, like Nodal, signal by inducing the phosphorylation of the intracellular signal transducers Smad2 and Smad3. However, the roles of Activins during embryonic development are much less understood. Here, we report that during Xenopus tropicalis development two waves of Smad2 phoshorylation can be observed, first during gastrulation and then a second one after neurulation. Using a knock-down approach, we show that the second wave of Smad2 phosphorylation depends on activinβa (actβa) and activinβb (actβb) expression. Knocking down the expression of actβa, or treating the embryos with a chemical inhibitor inhibiting TGFβ receptor I (TGFβRI) activity after neurulation result in a decrease of the expression of endothelial cell markers and a lack of blood flow in Xenopus tadpoles. Taken together these data suggest that Activin ligands play an important role during vascular development in Xenopus tropicalis embryos.


Activin, vasculogenesis, TGFβ, Xenopus, Smad

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