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Maternal syntabulin is required for dorsal axis formation and is a germ plasm component in Xenopus


In amphibians and teleosts, early embryonic axial development is driven by maternally deposited mRNAs and proteins, called dorsal determinants, which migrate to the presumptive dorsal side of the embryo in a microtubule-dependent manner after fertilization. Syntabulin is an adapter protein that binds to kinesin KIF5B and to the transmembrane protein Syntaxin1. In zebrafish, a mutation in Syntabulin causes complete embryo ventralization. It is unknown whether Syntabulin plays an analogous role during early development of other species, a question addressed here in Xenopus laevis. in situ hybridization of syntabulin mRNA was carried out at different stages of Xenopus development. In oocytes, syntabulin transcripts were localized to the vegetal cortex of large oocytes and the mitochondrial cloud of very young oocytes. We extended the zebrafish data by finding that during cleavage Xenopus syntabulin mRNA localized to the germ plasm and was later expressed in primordial germ cells (PGCs). This new finding suggested a role for Syntabulin during germ cell differentiation. The functional role of maternal syntabulin mRNA was investigated by knock-down with phosphorothioate DNA antisense oligos followed by oocyte transfer. The results showed that syntabulin mRNA depletion caused the complete loss of dorso-anterior axis formation in frog embryos. Consistent with the ventralized phenotype, syntabulin-depleted embryos displayed severe reduction of dorsal markers and ubiquitous transcription of the ventral marker sizzled. Syntabulin was required for the maternal Wnt/β-Catenin signal, since ventralization could be completely rescued by injection of β-catenin (or syntabulin) mRNA. The data suggest an evolutionarily conserved role for Syntabulin, a protein that bridges microtubule motors and membrane vesicles, during dorso-ventral axis formation in the vertebrates.

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