Int. J. Dev. Biol. 60: 201 - 207 (2016)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.160142jb
© UPV/EHU Press

Xenopus cell-free extracts and their contribution to the study of DNA replication and other complex biological processes

J. Julian Blow*,1 and Ronald A. Laskey2

1School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee and 2Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

ABSTRACT Here we discuss the important contributions that cell-free extracts have made to the study of complex biological processes. We provide a brief history of how cell-free extracts of frog eggs were developed to avoid many of the problems that can arise from the dilution and mixing of cellular components that typically occur when cell-free extracts are prepared. We briefly describe how Xenopus egg extracts have been fundamental to the study of many important cellular processes including DNA replication, cell cycle progression, nuclear protein import, nuclear assembly and chromosome organisation. We describe how, in particular, Xenopus egg extracts have made a major contributions to the study of DNA replication, by permitting the direct manipulation of proteins in a system that is extraordinarily faithful to the way that DNA replication occurs in the living embryo. Finally we consider how results obtained using Xenopus egg extracts are being translated to produce diagnostic reagents for cancer screening and diagnosis.

Keywords:

Xenopus, frog, egg, cell-free extract, in vitro, DNA replication

*Corresponding author e-mail: j.j.blow@dundee.ac.uk