Identification of a retinoic acid-sensitive period during primary axis formation in Xenopus laevis

Hazel L. Sive, Bruce W. Draper, Richard M. Harland, Harold Weintraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

280 Scopus citations


Retinoic acid (RA) is able to profoundly alter patterning of the primary body axis in embryos of the frog Xenopus laevis. The response to RA is dose-dependent, and leads to progressive truncation of the anteroposterior axis, with anterior structures most sensitive. Both mesodermal and ectodermal tissues are affected, and in vitro assays demonstrate that induced dorsal ectoderm is one direct target of RA. RA represses expression of anterior-specific genes and concomitantly induces expression of at least one posterior-specific gene. Resistance to RA is aquired gradually, during gastrula and early neurula stages, with posterior structures becoming resistant before anterior structures. These data demarcate in the embryo an anterior "domain," which may define the head rudiment and which transcends germ layers. RA can alter the axial pattern after its initial induction; thus, RA sensitivity defines a labile intermediate that occurs during axial patterning. These data suggest a possible role for RA in normal axis formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)932-942
Number of pages11
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior gene expression
  • Primary body axis
  • Retinoic acid
  • Xenopus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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