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Neural induction in the absence of organizer in salamanders is mediated by MAPK


Research on the mechanisms of embryonic induction had a great setback in the 1940s when Barth discovered and Holtfreter confirmed that ectoderm of Ambystoma maculatum salamander embryos could form brain tissue when cultured in a simple saline solution. We have revisited this classical experiment and found that when cultured animal cap ectoderm attaches to a glass substratum, it can self-organize to form complex organs such as brain vesicles, eyes, lens and olfactory placodes. Only anterior neural organs were generated. Under these culture conditions ERK became diphosphorylated, indicating a sustained activation of the Ras/MAPK pathway. Using sand particles as an example of a heterologous neural inducer similar results were obtained. Addition of U0126, a specific antagonist of MEK, the enzyme that phosphorylates ERK/MAPK, inhibited neural differentiation. The closely related control compound U0124 had no effect. We conclude that neural induction in the absence of organizer in A. maculatum requires Ras/MAPK-activation. These findings provide a molecular explanation for the activity of heterologous neural inducers that dominated thinking in amphibian experimental embryology for many decades. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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