Regulation of vertebrate left-right asymmetries by extracellular matrix

Nature. 1992 May 14;357(6374):158-61. doi: 10.1038/357158a0.


The vertebrate body is organized along three geometric axes: anterior-posterior, dorsal-ventral and left-right. Left-right axis formation, displayed in heart and gut development, is the least understood, even though it has been studied for many years. In Xenopus laevis gastrulae, a fibronectin-rich extracellular matrix is deposited on the basal surface of ectoderm cells over which cardiac and visceral primordia move during development. Here I report experiments in which localized perturbation of a small patch of extracellular matrix by microsurgery was correlated with localized randomization of left-right asymmetries. Global perturbation of the extracellular matrix by microinjection of Arg-Gly-Asp peptides or heparinase into the blastocoel resulted in global randomization of left-right asymmetries. From these observations, I suggest that left-right axial information is contained in the extracellular matrix early in development and is independently transmitted to cardiac and visceral primordia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Ectoderm / transplantation
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Fetal Tissue Transplantation / physiology*
  • Fibronectins / analysis
  • Fibronectins / physiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Gastrula / cytology
  • Gastrula / drug effects
  • Gastrula / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology*
  • Vertebrates / anatomy & histology*
  • Xenopus


  • Fibronectins
  • Oligopeptides