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Development July 1, 1993; 118 (3): 865-75.

Induction of cardiac muscle differentiation in isolated animal pole explants of Xenopus laevis embryos.

Logan M , Mohun T .

We have isolated a cDNA fragment encoding a portion of the myosin heavy chain alpha-isoform (XMHC alpha) in the amphibian, Xenopus laevis. The XMHC alpha transcript is highly enriched in adult heart RNA and is expressed exclusively in embryonic heart tissue. It therefore provides a tissue-specific marker for cardiac muscle differentiation during early embryogenesis. Using an RNAase protection assay, we can detect the onset of cardiac muscle differentiation in an anterior, ventral region of tailbud embryos, many hours before the appearance of a beating heart. Whole-mount in situ RNA hybridisation indicates that expression of the XMHC alpha gene is restricted to the developing heart primordium. XMHC alpha gene expression can also be induced in isolated animal pole explants of blastulae by treatment with the growth factor, activin A. Induction is dose-dependent, requiring high doses of the growth factor compared with that required for myotomal (skeletal) muscle differentiation. In contrast, no XMHC alpha transcripts are detected in explants incubated with basic FGF, despite the induction of myotomal muscle differentiation. Activin-induced explants show a similar temporal pattern of XMHC alpha gene expression to that found in normal embryogenesis. Furthermore, cells expressing this gene appear clustered in one or two foci within fused explant aggregates, which often show regular, spontaneous contractions after several days in culture. These results show that terminal differentiation of cardiac muscle can occur in growth factor-induced explants and may be distinguished from skeletal muscle differentiation by the dose and nature of the inducing factor.

PubMed ID: 8076523
Article link: Development

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: actc1 actl6a eef1a2 fgf2 fubp1 inhba myh6 myod1 tbx2

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