Tissue Rotation of the Xenopus Anterior-Posterior Neural Axis Reveals Profound but Transient Plasticity at the Mid-Gastrula Stage

Author Department

Medicine; Pediatrics

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



The establishment of anterior-posterior (AP) regional identity is an essential step in the appropriate development of the vertebrate central nervous system. An important aspect of AP neural axis formation is the inherent plasticity that allows developing cells to respond to and recover from the various perturbations that embryos continually face during the course of development. While the mechanisms governing the regionalization of the nervous system have been extensively studied, relatively less is known about the nature and limits of early neural plasticity of the anterior-posterior neural axis. This study aims to characterize the degree of neural axis plasticity in Xenopus laevis by investigating the response of embryos to a 180-degree rotation of their AP neural axis during gastrula stages by assessing the expression of regional marker genes using in situ hybridization. Our results reveal the presence of a narrow window of time between the mid- and late gastrula stage, during which embryos are able undergo significant recovery following a 180-degree rotation of their neural axis and eventually express appropriate regional marker genes including Otx, Engrailed, and Krox. By the late gastrula stage, embryos show misregulation of regional marker genes following neural axis rotation, suggesting that this profound axial plasticity is a transient phenomenon that is lost by late gastrula stages.

Keywords: Xenopus; anterior–posterior; axis formation; embryo; gastrula; neural; plasticity.