We have isolated the first Xenopus laevis cDNA coding for a cellular retinoic acid binding protein (xCRABP). xCRABP contains a single open reading frame, coding for an approximately 15 x 103 M(r) protein. Northern blot analysis shows that this cDNA hybridizes to a mRNA that is expressed both maternally and zygotically and which already reaches maximal expression during gastrulation (much earlier than previously described CRABP genes from other species). In situ hybridisation showed that at the onset of gastrulation, xCRABP mRNA is localised at the dorsal side of the embryo, in the ectoderm and in invaginating mesoderm. xCRABP expression then rapidly resolves into two domains; a neural domain, which becomes localised in the anterior hindbrain, and a posterior domain in neuroectoderm and mesoderm. These two domains were already evident by the mid-gastrula stage. We investigated the function of xCRABP by injecting fertilized eggs with an excess of sense xCRABP mRNA and examined the effects on development. We observed embryos with clear anteroposterior defects, many of which resembled the effects of treating Xenopus gastrulae with all-trans retinoic acid. Notably, the heart was deleted, anterior brain structures and the tail were reduced, and segmentation of the hindbrain was inhibited. The effects of injecting xCRABP transcripts are compatible with the idea that xCRABP overexpression modulates the action of an endogenous retinoid, thereby regulating the expression of retinoid target genes, such as Hox genes. In support of this, we showed that the expression of two Xenopus Hoxb genes, Hoxb-9 and Hoxb-4, is strongly enhanced by xCRABP overexpression. These results suggest that xCRABP expression may help to specify the anteroposterior axis during the early development of Xenopus laevis.

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Development (Cambridge)
Biophysical Genomics, Department Cell Biology & Genetics

Dekker, E. J., Vaessen, M.-J., Van Den Berg, C. (Claudia), Timmermans, A. (Ans), Godsave, S. (Sue), Holling, T. (Tjadine), … Durston, S. (1994). Overexpression of a cellular retinoic acid binding protein (xCRABP) causes anteroposterior defects in developing Xenopus embryos. Development (Cambridge), 120(4), 973–985. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/102568