The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 40: 709 - 713 (1996)

Vol 40, Issue 4

Special Issue: Developmental Biology of Urodeles

Morphogenesis of the axolotl pronephric duct: a model system for the study of cell migration in vivo

Published: 1 August 1996

J Drawbridge and M S Steinberg

Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.


Pronephric duct (PND) morphogenesis is a critical early event in the development of the vertebrate excretory system. This structure is the exit channel for both pronephric and mesonephric filtrate, forms the ureteric bud of the metanephros and gives rise to the ductus deferens of the testis. In addition, the PND and ureteric bud epithelia induce terminal differentiation of the mesonephric and metanephric mesenchyme, respectively. Elongation of the PND in all vertebrates involves active cell migration of the primordium. In urodele embryos--unlike in some anuran, avian and mammalian embryos--elongation of the PND occurs solely by cell migration. In the axolotl embryo, the PND primordium segregates as an ovoid tissue mass from the anterodorsal flank mesoderm directly beneath somites 3-7. The primordium then extends caudally along the ventral border of the developing somites until it reaches the cloaca. The ease with which these embryos can be manipulated microsurgically makes the PND system ideal for the study of the mechanisms controlling cell migration in vivo. This review summarizes the progress that has been made in characterizing the environmental cues and the cell surface recognition systems that drive this tightly regulated migration event.

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