Cell-autonomous signal transduction in the Xenopus egg Wnt/β-catenin pathway
Ablation of vegetal cytoplasm from newly fertilized Xenopus eggs results in the development of permanent blastula-type embryos (PBEs). PBEs cleave normally and develop into a very simple tissue consisting only of atypical epidermis. We tried to restore complete embryonic development in PBEs by cytoplasmic transplantation or by mRNA injection. We show a two-step reconstruction of the body plan. In the first step, PBEs injected with either marginal cytoplasm or synthetic VegT RNA restored gastrulation and mesoderm formation, but not axial patterning. Injection of Xwnt8 mRNA (acting upstream of beta-catenin and thus substitutes for the dorsal determinant) did not restore axial development in PBEs. Simultaneous injections of Xwnt8 and VegT into PBEs resulted in dorsal axis development, showing the synergy of these molecules in axial development. These results suggest that the mixing of two cytoplasmic determinants, i.e. the dorsal determinant in the vegetal pole and the endo-mesodermal determinant in the whole vegetal half, triggers the early axial developmental process in Xenopus embryos.