Int. J. Dev. Biol. 45: 39 - 50 (2001)
© UPV/EHU Press

Developmental biology of amphibians after Hans Spemann in Germany.

H Grunz

Department of Zoophysiology, Universität Essen, Germany.

ABSTRACT After the Hans Spemann and Hilde Mangold discovery of the importance of the dorsal blastopore lip for axis formation in the early embryo (Nobelprize for Spemann, 1935), the scientific community tried in a goldrush-like manner to find the inducing factors responsible for the programming of early embyronic determination and differentiation. The slow progress towards a solution of this problem caused a fading of interest on behalf of most laboratories. This article describes the activities of a few laboratories in Finland, Japan and Germany, which continued their studies despite tremendous experimental difficulties. Finally only Heinz Tiedemann's group in Berlin was the first which could isolate a mesoderm/endoderm inducing factor in highly purified form, the so-called vegetalizing factor, now known as activin. Furthermore this article describes the identification of neuralizing factors like Chordin, Cerberus and Dickkopf in the zone of the Spemann-Mangold organizer. The finding that BMP-4 acts as an antagonist to these factors located on the dorsal side led to a new understanding of the mechanisms of action of inducing (neuralizing) factors and early embryonic pattern formation. Moreover, the observations that closely related genes and their products were also found in Drosophila, Zebrafish, Mice and Human were the basis for new concepts of evolutionary mechanisms (dorsal/ventral and anterior/posterior polarity or conserved processes in eye-development of all 7 animal phyla).