Calcium signaling during convergent extension in Xenopus

Curr Biol. 2001 May 1;11(9):652-61. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(01)00201-9.


Background: During Xenopus gastrulation, cell intercalation drives convergent extension of dorsal tissues. This process requires the coordination of motility throughout a large population of cells. The signaling mechanisms that regulate these movements in space and time remain poorly understood.

Results: To investigate the potential contribution of calcium signaling to the control of morphogenetic movements, we visualized calcium dynamics during convergent extension using a calcium-sensitive fluorescent dye and a novel confocal microscopy system. We found that dramatic intercellular waves of calcium mobilization occurred in cells undergoing convergent extension in explants of gastrulating Xenopus embryos. These waves arose stochastically with respect to timing and position within the dorsal tissues. Waves propagated quickly and were often accompanied by a wave of contraction within the tissue. Calcium waves were not observed in explants of the ventral marginal zone or prospective epidermis. Pharmacological depletion of intracellular calcium stores abolished the calcium dynamics and also inhibited convergent extension without affecting cell fate. These data indicate that calcium signaling plays a direct role in the coordination of convergent extension cell movements.

Conclusions: The data presented here indicate that intercellular calcium signaling plays an important role in vertebrate convergent extension. We suggest that calcium waves may represent a widely used mechanism by which large groups of cells can coordinate complex cell movements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Female
  • Gastrula
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology