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XB-ART-57663
Genesis February 1, 2021; 59 (1-2): e23405.

Xenopus leads the way: Frogs as a pioneering model to understand the human brain.

Exner CRT , Willsey HR .


Abstract
From its long history in the field of embryology to its recent advances in genetics, Xenopus has been an indispensable model for understanding the human brain. Foundational studies that gave us our first insights into major embryonic patterning events serve as a crucial backdrop for newer avenues of investigation into organogenesis and organ function. The vast array of tools available in Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis allows interrogation of developmental phenomena at all levels, from the molecular to the behavioral, and the application of CRISPR technology has enabled the investigation of human disorder risk genes in a higher-throughput manner. As the only major tetrapod model in which all developmental stages are easily manipulated and observed, frogs provide the unique opportunity to study organ development from the earliest stages. All of these features make Xenopus a premier model for studying the development of the brain, a notoriously complex process that demands an understanding of all stages from fertilization to organogenesis and beyond. Importantly, core processes of brain development are conserved between Xenopus and human, underlining the advantages of this model. This review begins by summarizing discoveries made in amphibians that form the cornerstones of vertebrate neurodevelopmental biology and goes on to discuss recent advances that have catapulted our understanding of brain development in Xenopus and in relation to human development and disease. As we engage in a new era of patient-driven gene discovery, Xenopus offers exceptional potential to uncover conserved biology underlying human brain disorders and move towards rational drug design.

PubMed ID: 33369095
Article link: Genesis
Grant support: [+]

Species referenced: Xenopus tropicalis Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: dlx2 dlx5 emx1 emx2 en1 en2 eomes fgf8 foxa2 foxg1 gbx2.1 gsx1 gsx2 isl1 lhx1 nkx2-1 otx2 pax6 shh tbr1 tcf4 wnt1

Disease Ontology terms: autism spectrum disorder [+]
OMIMs: GILLES DE LA TOURETTE SYNDROME; GTS [+]

Article Images: [+] show captions