Int. J. Dev. Biol. 38: 623 - 632 (1994)
© UPV/EHU Press

Comparative analysis of Engrailed-1 and Wnt-1 expression in the developing central nervous system of Xenopus laevis.

K Eizema, J G Koster, B I Stegeman, W M Baarends, P H Lanser and O H Destrée

Hubrecht Laboratory, Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology, Utrecht.

ABSTRACT Expression of the Engrailed-1 (XEn-1) gene was studied in Xenopus embryogenesis by Northern blot analysis and whole-mount in situ hybridization. One transcript of 2.2 kb was detected from stage 17 (midneurula) onwards, until stage 47 (swimming tadpole). The expression pattern of the XEn-1 gene as revealed by in situ hybridization can be divided in three regions. The first domain of transient expression appears at the midneurula stage (st. 17) in the anterior part of the neural fold, forming a complete ring of positive cells at the mid/hindbrain border after neural tube closure. A second region of transient expression is detected as groups of ventro-lateral cells in the spinal cord and the hindbrain from late-neurula till tadpole stages. A third area of transient expression of XEn-1 is formed by the anterior part of the developing pronephros. Comparison of XEn-1 expression at the mid/hindbrain border with that of the Xenopus wnt-1 and engrailed-2 genes reveals that XEn-1 and Xwnt-1, in contrast to XEn-2, are both detected in a narrow stripe of positive cells in this region. Analysis in exogastrulated embryos reveals that expression of XEn-1 and Xwnt-1, but not XEn-2, is induced by planar signaling in the presumptive midbrain. Of the three genes only XEn-1 is expressed in the floorplate at the mid/hindbrain border, while Xwnt-1 is expressed in adjacent cells in the neural ectoderm. The results suggest that in vertebrates at the interface between cells in the floorplate and in the paraxial neuroectoderm, at the limited region of the mid/hindbrain border, En-1 interacts with wnt-1 in a signaling pathway analogous to the engrailed/wingless signaling in the parasegments of the Drosophila embryo.